'Abbas, Fayyad dispute could cause fall of gov't'

Sources say conflict between PA president, PM arose over resignation of Qassis, who is said to have quit over unions.

Abbas and Fayyad look like they have a headache, 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Abbas and Fayyad look like they have a headache, 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
A sharp dispute has erupted between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad over the resignation of Finance Minister Nabil Qassis, Palestinian sources reported over the weekend.
The sources said that the dispute could lead to the resignation of the PA government.
Qassis recently decided to quit the PA government – a move that was rejected by Abbas. Qassis was Abbas’s choice for finance minister – a job that Fayyad held for the past four years.
A few days later, however, Fayyad, in a surprise move, announced that he had accepted Qassis’s resignation.
Fayyad’s announcement was seen by Palestinians as a direct challenge to Abbas.
Although Qassis has not offered any explanation as to why he decided to step down, PA officials said he was protesting against a series of agreements reached between Fayyad and union workers.
Abbas and Fayyad met last week in a bid to end the dispute, but to no avail, the sources said. They added that Fayyad was determined to have Qassis removed from his post.
Fayyad’s move has also angered Fatah leaders in the West Bank who accused him of “insulting” the PA president and seeking to seize regain control over the Finance Ministry.
Najat Abu Baker, a Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, accused Fayyad, who is from the small Third Way party, of “openly challenging the decisions of the Palestinian president.” She warned Fayyad against taking the finance portfolio for himself and called on all the ministers to submit their resignations to Abbas immediately.
“Fayyad does not want anyone else to control the Finance Ministry; he wants it for himself,” Abu Baker claimed.
“Fayyad has been treating his ministers as if he was a headmaster and they were the teachers.”
Another Fatah official, Tawfik Tirawi, accused Fayyad of seeking exclusive control over the Palestinian economy and finances.
Abbas met over the weekend with several Fatah officials to discuss the crisis.
During the meeting, the Fatah officials expressed outrage over Fayyad’s decision to accept Qassis’s resignation and called on Abbas to appoint a new prime minister, according to a senior Fatah representative.
“Fayyad needs to be reminded that this is the president’s government and not his,” the representative said.