Ramallah — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is under heavy international pressure to retain his prime minister in a future Palestinian unity government, officials said Wednesday.
Abbas' secular Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with the rival Islamic Hamas government in the Gaza Strip last week that calls for a joint government to be formed ahead of elections next year. Israel refuses to deal with any government that includes Hamas.
The Palestinian officials said Abbas wants to keep his Western-backed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, in the job, but that the Palestinian president hasn't made a final decision yet because of opposition within the ranks of Fatah and Hamas.
The officials said donor nations have made clear they want Fayyad, a US-educated economist and political independent, to remain in the post. They said Abbas realizes Fayyad is the best hope for a coalition government to win international recognition.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal decision.
"Fatah has not made a decision yet, but so far most of Fatah believes Salam Fayyad has done a great job and if he stays in office that will help in overcoming many difficulties," said Nabil Shaath, a Fatah central committee member.
But for Fayyad to keep his job as prime minister he'd need at least the tacit support of Hamas, which runs a rival government in Gaza.
Fayyad, a former official at the International Monetary Fund, has good ties with the US and Israel. He is credited with cracking down on public corruption, securing foreign aid and preparing the groundwork and infrastructure for a future Palestinian state.