Hamas reshuffles cabinet; Fatah calls move a 'ploy'

Measure likely to harm efforts for Fatah-Hamas reconciliation; as part of reshuffle, Gaza leadership appoints woman to serve as minister.

March 10, 2011 17:11
2 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

ismail haniyeh 311. (photo credit: Bloomberg)

In a move that is likely to deepen divisions in the Palestinian arena, Hamas announced on Thursday a reshuffle of the cabinet headed by Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah dismissed the move as a “ploy” and said that the Hamas government was “illegitimate” because it had been dismissed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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Abbas recently decided to reshuffle the West Bankbased cabinet, and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is still conducting consultations with various groups and individuals over the make-up of his new government.

The decision to reshuffle the Hamas cabinet came on the eve of a Facebook campaign by Palestinians to demand an end to the Hamas-Fatah dispute.

The campaign organizers have called for mass rallies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to pressure Hamas and Fatah into ending their power struggle and agreeing to the formation of a unity government.

And in keeping with the spirit of the current wave of popular uprisings in the Arab world, Hamas appointed a woman, Jamileh Shanti, as minister for women’s affairs in the Haniyeh cabinet.

Haniyeh, who will retain his post as prime minister, also canceled the Ministry of Information, replacing it with a Government Press Office that would report directly to him.

Shanti is one of six new ministers who will join the Hamas cabinet.

The other five are: Saleh al-Raqab, minister for Wakf (Islamic trust) Affairs; Ala al-Rafati, minister for national economy; Atallah Abu al-Sabah, minister for prisoners affairs; Muhammad al-Madhoun, minister for sports and youth; and Muhammad Awad, minister of planning.

Hamas officials denied that the reshuffle had any political implications and reiterated their readiness to solve the crisis with Fatah.

Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said that the move was in the context of the cabinet’s efforts to improve its “administrative functioning.” He said it was also aimed at easing the burden on ministers who hold more than one portfolio.

“The cabinet reshuffle won’t be an obstacle to reconciliation [with Fatah],” he said. “The division was imposed on the Palestinians by the occupation, and the Fatah authority in the West Bank helped in this.”

Ismail al-Ashkar, another prominent Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip, claimed that the new cabinet would facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian unity government soon.

All the Hamas ministers were professionals and highly qualified for their jobs, he said.

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