Palestinians protest against new PA prime minister

Hebronites unhappy locals will not be included in new gov't, aside from Health Minister Jawad Awwad; Residents say it is unfair.

Rami Hamdallah 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
Rami Hamdallah 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
The first protest against Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah took place in Hebron on Saturday.
Dozens of Palestinians staged a sit-in-strike in the center of the city in protest of Hamdallah’s failure to appoint more than one minister from Hebron to his new government, which was sworn in before PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.
The only Hebronite serving in the new government is Health Minister Jawad Awwad.
But the protesters said having only one minister from Hebron in the government is unfair and does injustice to the residents of the city and its surrounding villages and towns.
Palestinian Hebronites also used Facebook and Twitter to wage a campaign against Hamadallah for excluding them from his government, with some accusing him of racism.
At Saturday’s strike-in, protesters carried placards that read: “No to racism” and “Aren’t there any qualified candidates in Hebron?” The protesters also chanted, “Oh Hamdallah, fear Allah!” and “Oh Hamdallah, go away you and your government in Ramallah.”
The protesters said it was inconceivable that Hebron, the largest Palestinian district in the West Bank, would not be fairly represented in the new government.
“Hebron is also the most important economic city in the West Bank,” complained Suhaib Zahdeh, one of the protesters. “Having only one minister in the government means that Hamdallah is marginalizing us.”
Other Palestinians pointed out that the new government has six ministers, including Hamdallah, who are from An- Najah University in Nablus.
Until his appointment last week by Abbas, Hamdallah had served as president of the university since 1998.
Following the protests, Hamdallah decided to appoint Anwar Abu Aisheh, a member of the Hebron Municipal Council, as culture minister, Palestinian sources said. The sources said that Abu Aisheh was expected to be sworn in by Abbas late Saturday as the 25th member of the new government.
Meanwhile, the Londonbased Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper quoted Palestinian sources as saying that Hamdallah’s government would have less powers than that of the previous one headed by Salam Fayyad.
“The Palestinian Authority presidency will be in charge of the new government,” the sources said. “The new government will not be able to make any decision without referring to the Palestinian presidency office.”
The sources also noted that it was Abbas, and not Hamdallah, who appointed the two deputy prime ministers, Mohamed Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amr.
Mustafa, director of the PLO’s Palestine Investment Fund, will be in charge of economic affairs and will report directly to Abbas. The move means that Mustafa will serve as the de facto finance minister, although banker Bishara Shukri formally holds the position.