Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat plans to depose the interior minister he appointed in June to head the PA's security services, according to the tentative cabinet he presented to a hastily summoned meeting of his Fatah Party's leadership last night.
Arafat said he still needed a few days to finalize the lineup, and it was unclear whether some prominent ministers would continue.
Arafat told the Fatah Central Committee, whose meeting had originally been scheduled for Friday, that Abdel Razak Yayha would not continue as interior minister, a post Arafat had held until the June reshuffle. Instead, Palestinian officials said, he will probably appoint his longtime supporter Hani al-Hassan.
Al-Hassan was among those holed up with Arafat during Israel's 10-day siege of the chairman's Ramallah headquarters last month, and he has recently built strong ties with the Palestinian leader. A few weeks ago, Arafat assigned him the task of reorganizing the Fatah movement in the West Bank.
However, the officials said, other candidates for the post have not yet been ruled out, including Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of the PA's Preventive Security Service in Gaza, and General Nasser Yusuf.
The officials said that six other ministers are also likely to lose their jobs, including those of justice, health, social affairs, communications, civil affairs, and youth and sport. The Civil Affairs Ministry, which is responsible for coordinating with the Israeli security services travel by senior Palestinian officials, will apparently be dismantled entirely.
Finance Minister Salam Fayyad will remain in office, along with veterans Saeb Erekat and Nabil Shaath, the officials said. The future of others, including Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, has not yet been decided, Arafat told the meeting.
Arafat's present cabinet was forced to present its resignation on September 11 to avoid a vote of no-confidence by the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was upset over the PA's corruption and inefficiency. The chairman was to have presented his new cabinet to the parliament on September 25, but the Israel Defense Forces' incursion into his headquarters, in response to a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, delayed the process.
Arafat has been under stiff internal and international pressure to reform his administration. The United States and Israel have demanded that his competing and overlapping security services be restructured into an entity that will prevent terror attacks against Israel, while Palestinians are most concerned with evidence of corruption and ineffective rule.