Palestinian sources: Fatah attempting to save Arafat from worst political defeat ever

Published April 16th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Bassam Antari – Al Bawaba  


A Palestinian official confirmed to Al Bawaba that Fatah’s central committee will be making a final attempt in the next few hours to prevent the transfer of the ongoing dispute between Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, and the newly appointed prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), to the Palestinian Legislative Council. Fatah’s central committee is trying to protect Arafat against what could be his worst internal political defeat should the legislators approve Abbas’s proposed cabinet members, which present indications show they are quite willing to do.  


“The issue is now in the hands of Fatah’s central committee which is expected to meet in the next 48 hours to decide on the issue,” said Hatem Abdel Qader, Jerusalem representative at the Palestinian Legislative Council. He added, “the dispute is internal now and the debate is between leaders of Fatah and Fatah’s central committee. Both are not convinced with the new government and so amendments are inevitable.”  


On Saturday, Abbas presented a list of his proposed cabinet members to Arafat, who viewed the proposal as an attempt to sideline him. According to Abdel Qader, Arafat reacted to the proposal by shouting angrily asking “for sympathy with a leader of a nation that has been humiliated.”  


Abbas chose his cabinet members from outside the Fatah circle, while excluding Fatah ministers in the current cabinet. These exclusions included the Minister of Interior - Hani al Hasan, Minister of Social Affairs - Entisar al Wazir “Umm Jihad” and Minister of Supply - Abdel Aziz Shahin (who was recently accused of corruption). According to Abdel Qader, these three exclusions (in particular) angered Arafat, in addition to Abu Mazen’s appointment of Mohammad Dahlan (former head of preventive security in Gaza) as Minister in charge of interior affairs.  


Arafat was further aggravated when Abbas sidelined three veteran ministers [well-regarded by Arafat], including Yasser Abed Rabbu - Minister of Information, Saeb Erekat - Minister of Local Government and Maher al Masri - Minister of Economy. He offered them ministerial positions without portfolios, but they all refused the offer.  


“Arafat sees himself insecure with this [Abbas’s new] government,” said Abdel Qader. He added “if efforts made by Fatah fail to find a solution for the crisis, Abbas could either apologize for not forming the government, or ignore Arafat’s remarks and go directly to the Palestinian Legislative Council, where Arafat could face possible defeat.  


The dispute over the formation of the new Palestinian cabinet has delayed the ‘roadmap’ plan announcement by the White House, which addresses the framework for a ‘peaceful’ solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The US promised to announce the plan only after the formation of the new Palestinian government.  


Both Abbas and Arafat have been facing Arab and international pressure, including pressure from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, to resolve their disputes and form the new government as soon as possible. (

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