Abbas reshuffles cabinet but keeps Fayyad as PM, infuriating Hamas (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By MICHAL SHMULOVICH and AP 05/16/12)
TIMES OF ISRAEL
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A new Palestinian government in the West Bank, featuring 11 new
ministers and two reshuffled posts in the 25-member cabinet, was
sworn in on Wednesday in a clear sign that efforts to end the
Palestinian political split between Hamas and Fatah are stuck.
Salam Fayyad has retained his post of prime minister, until or unless
a unity government is formed. But he relinquished the role of finance
minister to Nabil Kassis, a former university president who, like
Fayyad, is considered a political independent. The role of finance
minister is important, particularly because the PA has been facing
budgetary issues since it announced its intention to establish a
Fatah-Hamas unity government in February 2011.
Fayyad, a widely respected economist noted for his success in
fighting corruption but accused of being too pro-Western by critics,
was supposed to hand over the role of prime minister to a Hamas-
backed member in a unity government.
The Hamas leadership, as expected, was upset by the cabinet reshuffle.
“Any reformation of the government in the West Bank, or even any
cabinet reshuffle, is wrong and with this they are avoiding the Doha
announcement,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, referring to a
tentative agreement on Fatah-Hamas unity reached three months
ago. “This strengthens the division” and demonstrates that the PA
and Fatah “are far from implementing the unity agreement,” added
Barhoum, according to AFP.
Abbas responded that the decision was forced upon him because the
government in Ramallah was no longer able to function. “We are
paralyzed,” Abbas told reporters before the swearing-in ceremony.
The unity deal was to have ended five years of separate Palestinian
governments, one run by Fayyad in the West Bank and the other by
Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Under its terms, Abbas was to head an
interim unity government ahead of presidential and parliamentary
However, repeated disagreements between the two factions as well as
within them have held up implementation. By rearranging the cabinet
in the West Bank, Fayyad and Abbas signaled the split is likely to
continue for some time.
According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas told the new
cabinet that its priority should be to conduct municipal elections
that have been delayed repeatedly. Such elections would likely be
held only in the West Bank, another sign that implementation of the
unity agreement does not seem close.
Abbas and Hamas have had bitter ideological differences, with Abbas
pursuing a deal with Israel and Hamas dismissing such talks as a
waste of time. Efforts to bring the two groups together have
repeatedly stalled but February’s agreement, signed in Doha, Qatar,
seemed to bring reconciliation — key to any statehood ambitions —
within reach for the first time since 2007.
Under the Doha agreement, Abbas was to lead an interim unity
government of independent technocrats for several months, until
elections. But since it was announced, rifts have emerged. Hamas
leaders in Gaza balked at the idea of relinquishing power to Abbas
who, in turn, has been apprehensive about engaging in a partnership
with the Islamists that could turn off Western donors.
Israel had condemned the Doha deal, warning that any rapprochement
between Abbas and Hamas would close the door to future peace talks.
(© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 05/16/12)
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