Palestinian PM designate may announce new cabinet this weekend
Palestinian Prime Minster designate - Ahmad Qurei (Abu Ala'a) - has completed on Sunday evening consultations with the Palestinian factions regarding the formation his new cabinet. Hamas has publicly refused to participate in the new government, however has implicitly backed the nomination of a figure close to the movement should Islamic Jihad decide to participate in the new cabinet.
On Saturday, Qurei arrived in Gaza for consultations with the Islamic factions. More than one Palestinian official have stated that the new cabinet would be officially announced by the end of this week and hence, presented to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) early next week for the vote of confidence.
Qurei is seeking to secure the largest possible participation in his cabinet by including members from the various Palestinian factions. In a move that would resolve Hamas' refusal to participate in the new government and any its institutions, Qurei offered Mousa al Za'about - a physician close to Hamas – a post in his government, which the latter confirmed he did. However, Za'about denied that his acceptance has come in coordination with Hamas, saying “My acceptance to participate in the incoming government has not been coordinated with anybody.”
Za'about does not, however, know yet the portfolio he will be assuming, although signs indicate that he will be Minster of Health due to his professional experience. “I was offered to participate in the new government…yesterday I had an appointment with Abu Ala'a to discuss the portfolio which I will be assuming,” said Za'about.
Should Za'about join the new cabinet, it will be the second time the Palestinian cabinet includes a figure close to Hamas - the first being Emad al Falouji's nomination as Minster of Communication. Falouji played an instrumental role in bridging the gap between Hamas and the PA, stimulating dialogue between the two sides.
For his part, Falouji praised the move of nominating Za’about and told Al Bawaba, “The presence of Za’about in the cabinet will be a positive step in representing the Islamic camp in the new cabinet. This is an important matter which we have always demanded.” He added, “From my own experience, I can tell you that my presence in the former cabinet was important in enhancing the dialogue between the PA and Hamas, and for delivering the Islamic movements’ viewpoints to the Palestinian government.”
For its part, the Islamic Jihad announced that it would not participate in the new cabinet, but according to Falouji it has decided to support it. “There is positive momentum by the various factions to support Abu Ala’a, particularly amongst the Islamic Jihad who have announced their support for the government without actually participating in it,” said Falouji.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has also announced its refusal to participate in the new cabinet, however its rhetoric was not as harsh as was the case before. In the same context, Palestinian legislator and Fatah leader - Hatem Abdel Qader - reiterated that a consensus on a ‘united direction’ is more important than participating in the new government. “The most important thing for us is to agree on a national plan…it is more important than participating in the new cabinet,” he told Al Bawaba.
The Palestinian MP said the new government - to be formed by Arafat and Abu Ala’a - will “focus on reforms, national unity, the proper enforcement of the law and putting an end to the state of chaos in the Palestinian lands.”
He added “Abu Ala’a is trying to expand the government to include members from the other factions. If these factions refuse to participate in the government, this does not mean that there cannot be an agreement on a political agenda… the Palestinians are living in critical times that need consensus on their basic requirements…we should agree on something.”
Abdel Qader considers Za’about’s acceptance in joining the new cabinet a step in the right direction amid a fierce campaign the world is launching against the Palestinians.
On another note, Fatah movement is expected to secure 16 of the 24 portfolios available in the new government. Abdel Qader, who was offered the post of Minister of Endowment (perhaps for being from Jerusalem), reiterated that his party has shown a lot of flexibility vis-à-vis the number of portfolios Fatah is expected to control, saying, “I have no objection if the participation of Fatah in the new cabinet declines to 10 portfolios if the other factions decide to participate in the new cabinet.”
On the other hand, close sources to the PM designate told Al Bawaba that although the decision is not yet final, the new government is almost ready. Nominations, as per the source, told Al Bawaba that the nominations are as follows:
- Ministry of Interior: Nasr Yousef
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Nabil Shaath
- Ministry of Finance: Salam Fayyad
- Ministry of Commerce: Maher al Masri
- Ministry of Endowment: Hatem Abdel Qader
- Ministry of Local Rule: Saeb Ereikat
- Ministry of Information: Yaser Abd Rabboh
- Ministry of Labor: Ghassan al Khatib
- Ministry of Planning: Nabil Qissis
- Ministry of Health: Mousa al Zaabout
- Ministry of Agriculture: Rafiq al Natsheh
- Ministry of Communications: Azzam al Ahmad
- Ministry of Prisoner Affairs: Hisham Abdel Razeq
- Ministry of Tourism: Metri Abu Eitah
- Ministry of Social Affairs: Entisar al Wazeer
- Ministry of Public Works and Housing: Yahya Ashour
- Ministry of Education: Naem Abul Hommos
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)