Qureia to revamp cabinet with reform-minded ministers
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia agreed on Tuesday to revamp his proposed cabinet with more reform-minded ministers and to present the new government to parliament on Wednesday, legislators said.
The compromise, following a one-day delay in parliamentary ratification of a cabinet, appeared to pave the way for new Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to press ahead with a promised overhaul of the PA and peace efforts with Israel.
"Abu Ala (Qureia) agreed to present a new government tomorrow and this is an achievement for the Palestinian Legislative Council," Hatem Abdel-Qader, a member of parliament from the dominant Fatah faction, told Reuters.
Legislators said at least two lawmakers, staunch proponents of reform, and technocrats who could help the PA run more smoothly would be included in what one deputy described as a cabinet "with new faces."
Lawmakers from Abbas's Fatah faction had threatened to vote no-confidence in the government unless changes were made, a move that could have forced Qureia from office.
The Palestinian Legislative Council had delayed approval of Abbas' new government on Monday after PLC members said it would not advance reforms in the PA.
Following a stormy debate in parliament that signaled widespread dissent over the cabinet lineup, the PLC vote was postponed.
Parliament members criticized Qureia when he presented the cabinet list, saying it comprises too many veteran officials.
The new government that was proposed was essentially an old one, they said, and it neither consituted reform nor would help to advance reforms in the PA.
Fatah approves cabinet ahead of PLC debate Early Monday, lawmakers from the ruling Fatah party approved the new cabinet, clearing the way for Abbas to present it to the PLC later in the day.
The Fatah approval came after a marathon meeting that lasted until 3 A.M. Monday, Palestinian officials said.
"Fatah lawmakers approved the cabinet list after very heated discussions," said Mufid Abed Rabbo, a Fatah parliamentarian who was at the nine-hour meeting.
Some legislators said the debate took so long because many Fatah members opposed the reappointment of any of the former ministers accused of being part of an old guard that allowed corruption and mismanagement to flourish.
They had hoped for a broader reshuffle.
Abbas and Qureia have had bitter disagreements about the makeup of the new cabinet, reflecting the new regime of Abbas, who succeeded the late Yasser Arafat.
Most prominent among the new faces in the 24-member cabinet is Nasser Yousef, who becomes interior minister in charge of security forces. Former chairman Yasser Arafat resisted appointment of Yousef, an ex-general, preferring to keep control of the forces. Yousef replaces Arafat crony Hakam Bilawi in the post.
Nasser al-Qidwa, Arafat's nephew, who has been serving as the Palestinian representative at the United Nations, takes over as foreign minister, replacing Nabil Sha'ath, who becomes deputy prime minister.
Also, Dalal Salama becomes social affairs minister. She replaces Intissar al-Wazzir, widow of famed Palestinian fighter Abu Jihad. She had held the post since the first Palestinian Authority Cabinet was formed in 1995 but was widely accused of corruption.
Qadoura Fares, a Fatah official, said that at the marathon meeting, many Fatah members complained that not enough changes were made, noting that most of the Cabinet ministers had held their positions for a long time or had filled other positions.
Qureia said that for political reasons, he could make no more changes.
Message to Militants Nasser Yousef is expected to help lead reforms to streamline at least a dozen security forces. His appointment will also send a message to militants who are still weighing whether to formalize a ceasefire that Abbas agreed with Israel this month.
Key Abbas loyalist and former security chief Mohammad Dahlan, who has taken the senior role in negotiations with the Israelis, will take the newly created post of minister for cabinet affairs.
Dahlan is part of a younger generation of Palestinian leaders who have demanded reforms to security forces and to stop corruption.
Another reformer, Nabil Amr, was set to become information minister. He was the victim of an apparent assassination attempt after criticizing Arafat last year. His leg was amputated after the shooting.
Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, who won praise from Washington for trying to curb widespread corruption and mismanagement under Arafat, is due to keep his job.