PA President Abbas in No Hurry to Replace PM Fayyad

Mahmoud Abbas wants to assess whether a cabinet of technocrats could be created that he would head, and which would lead to elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within 90 days. Proponents of Palestinian reconciliation are in favor of elections.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly in no hurry to appoint a new prime minister to replace Salam Fayyad, who tendered his resignation last Saturday. Senior Fatah officials said over the weekend that Abbas has been waiting for the outcome of Hamas talks in Qatar, where its political leaders met on Thursday-Friday.

One Fatah official told Haaretz that Abbas would begin considering his options over the coming week, but was in no rush to appoint a new government “because he knows developments don’t depend only on him.”

Abbas wants to assess whether a cabinet of technocrats could be created that he would head, and which would lead to elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip within 90 days.

Proponents of Palestinian reconciliation are in favor of elections. However, sources in Fatah say the fact that Hamas’ Gaza branch constitutes a majority in its political bureau makes the election scenario unlikely.

Nevertheless, Arab newspapers reported over the weekend that the current makeup of the political bureau is said to be in favor of reconciliation. The fact that this week’s Doha meeting of Hamas’ political bureau was sponsored by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, is considered a factor favoring progress on reconciliation.

Over the weekend, 12 organizations and parties in the West Bank and Gaza called on the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouk, and bureau head Khaled Meshal to move ahead on reconciliation and elections, as it’s the only way the Palestinians can elect their future leadership.

However, another possibility is the appointment of a Fatah official or an independent figure close to Fatah as prime minister for the West Bank.

Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of the Palestinian Investment Fund, has been mentioned as a front-runner. However, Abbas is believed to be hesitating because of the major impact Mustafa’s appointment could have on economic aid from the European Union and the United States, since both viewed Fayyad as independent and professional in his economic leadership of the West Bank.

Meanwhile, rumors continue to fly as to why Mustafa’s appointment might be favored. According to one version, Mustafa has managed to conclude a deal with figures in Israel and abroad to bring very large sums into PA coffers. No details were revealed, but sources in Ramallah say natural resources in the Gaza region are involved.

Political sources in Ramallah are also not ruling out the possibility that Abbas will want Fayyad to stay at his post until further notice. This will allow changes to the PA cabinet without a major shake-up for a few months, the period U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked for when he intervened personally to keep Fayyad in office.

Reuters