Abbas mulls firing Palestinian PM Fayyad

Palestinian Authority president considers appointing Palestinian economist Mohammed Mustafa as Palestinian prime minister.

PA President Abbas and PM Fayyad 370 (R) (photo credit: Fadi Arouri / Reuters)
PA President Abbas and PM Fayyad 370 (R)
(photo credit: Fadi Arouri / Reuters)
US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ramallah has aggravated tensions between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, a senior Palestinian official revealed over the weekend.
The official said that Abbas was now considering sacking Fayyad and appointing Palestinian economist Mohammed Mustafa as prime minister.
Abbas has come under heavy pressure from many Fatah leaders in the West Bank to fire Fayyad and appoint a new prime minister.
One Fatah official, Tawfik Tirawi, accused Fayyad of seeking to replace Abbas as PA president with the backing of the US.
Mustafa last week resigned from his job as director of the Palestine Investment Fund, triggering speculation that he is about to replace Fayyad.
Established in 2003, the Palestine Investment Fund is an independent investment company which aims to strengthen the Palestinian economy through key strategic investments.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted the official as saying that Abbas was furious with Fayyad because the latter had asked to meet with Obama separately during the US president’s visit to Ramallah last Thursday.
Recently, a sharp dispute erupted between Abbas and Fayyad over the resignation of PA Finance Minister Nabil Qassis.
While Abbas had rejected the resignation, calling on Qassis to remain in his job, Fayyad was quick to announce that he had accepted Qassis’s request to quit.
Fayyad’s announcement was seen by PA officials as a blunt challenge to Abbas’s authority.
Abbas is also said to be outraged by Fayyad’s latest decision to cut salaries of PA employees living in the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of PA employees in the Gaza Strip continue to receive salaries from the PA government although they have not been working since Hamas took control over the area in 2007.
Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, on Saturday called on Fayyad to resign.
Tirawi said that Fatah rejects any attempt to replace Abbas – a reference to unconfirmed reports that Fayyad was planning to run for PA president.
“All indications suggest that Fayyad has his eyes on the presidency,” Tirawi said.
Meanwhile, the Fayyad government is expected Sunday to vote on the PA’s annual budget – an issue that could further exacerbate tensions between Abbas and his prime minister.
Sources in Ramallah said that if Abbas does not approve the budget, Fayyad will have to resign, paving the way for the establishment of a new government headed by Mustafa.
Bassam Zakarneh, head of the PA employees’ union, said that Fayyad did not consult with anyone before finalizing the budget, which is estimated at more than $3.6 billion.
Zakarneh claimed that Fayyad was planning to present the budget in the last minute so as to avoid any discussions about its contents.