Ministers allowed to discuss day-to-day affairs; Fatah weighs shadow cabinet.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday told his ministers that they would be allowed to maintain contacts with Israeli officials to discuss day-to-day affairs of the Palestinian population, sources close to the new prime minister told The Jerusalem Post.
Meanwhile, some Fatah leaders are seriously considering the possibility of forming a shadow cabinet that would operate parallel to the Hamas administration. The idea is being floated by top Fatah officials who are convinced that Hamas would fail in running the Palestinians' affairs because of the international community's decision to boycott the new cabinet.
Despite his instructions regarding matters related to the Palestinians' daily lives, the sources close to Haniyeh said he nevertheless instructed the ministers to refrain from holding political talks with Israelis, explaining that the time was 'inappropriate" to make such a move as long as Israel had nothing new to offer.
Haniyeh's remarks were made during the first meeting of the new Hamas cabinet, which was held in Ramallah and Gaza City via video-conference.
At the meeting, each minister presented an emergency plan for dealing with growing anarchy and lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the next nine months.
"Enforcing law and order, as well as preserving the integrity of the judicial system, will be at the top of this cabinet's agenda," Haniyeh stressed. "The government is determined to end lawlessness and restore security. We have instructed the Interior Ministry to start implementing the decision." He also emphasized that his cabinet was strongly opposed to attacks on foreigners, vowing to protect them and their property.
Referring to the latest Israeli security measures, Haniyeh accused Israel of escalating the situation in a bid to "confuse" the Palestinians and urged the international community to exert pressure on Israel to halt its measures.
Haniyeh's decision to permit his ministers to hold contacts with Israel stands in sharp contrast with statements made by some Hamas officials, including Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, to the effect that the movement would not recognize Israel.
Regarding the PA financial crisis, Haniyeh announced that he would not receive his salary until all civil servants, including security personnel, received their wages. He pointed out that the new cabinet had discovered that the PA's treasury was empty. This, he added, was in addition to the debts of the former cabinet.
Haniyeh promised that his cabinet would do its utmost to ensure that all salaries are paid on time, saying some Arab and foreign countries had expressed their desire to channel funds to the new cabinet. He accused the media of distorting the truth by questioning his cabinet's ability to govern.
Haniyeh is scheduled to meet in Gaza City on Thursday with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the financial crisis in the PA and the latest developments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a source close to Abbas told the Post. The source said the talks would focus primarily on the future of the Palestinian security forces and ways of resolving the severe financial crisis.
At Wednesday's meeting, the cabinet's first decision was to appoint editor Ghazi Hamad as cabinet spokesman. Hamad served as editor of Hamas's weekly newspaper al-Risalah. He will become the first spokesman ever for a PA cabinet.
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