Abbas Disbands PA Negotiation Committee Over Palestine Papers Leak

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat resigned Sunday, taking blame for leaks to Al Jazeera known as the Palestine papers that allegedly came from within his committee.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas disbanded Monday the Palestinian Steering and Monitoring Committee headed by former Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Erekat on Sunday resigned from his position, taking blame for leaks to Al Jazeera known as the Palestine papers which contained details of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat - AP - Feb. 6, 2010

His decision came after reports indicated that the documents were leaked to the Qatar-based news agency by a source within the committee.

Following Erekat, the Palestinian cabinet resigned on Monday, in an apparent attempt by the PA president to demonstrate political reform in the wake of the popular uprising in Egypt.

The shake-up could bolster Abbas' among Palestinians dissatisfied with the workings of a cabinet regarded by many as dysfunctional.

The reshuffle had been demanded by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has spearheaded efforts to create institutions for a Palestinian state. Fayyad will retain his post and select new ministers, officials said.

Although several anti-Abbas protests erupted in the West Bank after the upheaval began in Egypt on Jan. 25, he has not faced large-scale demonstrations in the territory, whose economy has strengthened in recent years.

However, Abbas has faced public criticism over the functioning of the government. Of the 24 posts in the outgoing administration, only 16 were staffed. Two ministers resigned and six are marooned in Gaza.

Abbas said the new cabinet should focus on "strengthening the preparedness of the national institutions for the establishment of the state of independent Palestine", according to the official news agency WAFA.