Abbas, Qurei struggle over new cabinet

Qurei has thus far shown no sign that he is willing to quit his post.

abbas, cabinet 298 AP (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas, cabinet 298 AP
(photo credit: AP [file])
Ongoing tensions between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei are behind the delay in the formation of a new cabinet, Palestinian officials here said Monday. The Palestinian Legislative Council two weeks ago entrusted Abbas with establishing a new cabinet after criticizing the performance of Qurei’s ministers, holding them responsible for the continued state of anarchy and lawlessness in PA-controlled areas. More than half of the legislators have signed a petition calling for the replacement of the current cabinet. On Monday, Qurei’s cabinet was expected to hold its last weekly meeting before submitting its resignation. However, Qurei has thus far shown no sign that he is willing to quit his post. Abbas, on the other hand, has yet to decide whether he wants to ask someone else to form a new cabinet. Abbas said Sunday he still hadn’t made up his mind and that he was continuing his discussions with political leaders on this subject. According to one official, Abbas was considering a proposal that would see the cabinet reshuffled while keeping Qurei in his post. The proposal called for replacing a number of “inefficient” ministers, including Interior Minister Gen. Nasser Youssef, who has been accused of failing to end the anarchy. “President Abbas prefers to appoint a new prime minister,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “Most of the parliament members don’t want Qurei.” Another official said rumors about the impending dismissal of Qurei had resulted in a crisis between the prime minister and Abbas. “Qurei’s political future is now in the hands of Abbas,” he said. “I don’t see Qurei holding any senior position once he’s out of the cabinet.” Sources close to Qurei said if he were forced to resign, he would most likely run for the post of speaker of the PLC a position he held for eight years before he was appointed prime minister by Yasser Arafat. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held next January, although some PA officials recently have been talking about the possibility of delaying the vote because of fears that Hamas would make a strong showing. “I don’t believe that President Abbas has enough time to form a new cabinet before the next parliamentary elections,” said Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA’s daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda. “I also don’t believe there’s a candidate who’s interested in the job of prime minister because of all the accusations and criticism he would face in the wake of the continued anarchy.” Barghouti said the problem was not about the prime minister or any of his ministers, but the lack of a clear strategy on the part of the PA. “Even if there was a strategy, we don’t have qualified people to implement it,” he said. “Perhaps the best solution would be to set up a parliamentary committee that would give advice to President Abbas. There’s no point in changing the cabinet now because that would only trigger an internal political crisis.” Political analyst Yahya Rabah expressed hope that the dispute over the cabinet would not be added to the many problems facing the PA leadership. “We’re now in the midst of the season of cabinet change,” he said. “Some want a caretaker cabinet until the parliamentary elections, while others are talking about a cabinet of reforms or an emergency cabinet or a national-unity cabinet. The Palestinian people can’t take this any longer because they care more about work and living in security.”