Accessibility links

Arafat Clears Way for Palestinian Cabinet Shake-Up - 2004-07-23

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has cleared the way for his prime minister to make changes to his Cabinet, amid continuing calls for reform and an end to corruption in his administration. At the same time, Mr. Arafat has not confirmed reports that he is ceding some of his power over the security forces.

Mr. Arafat has reportedly authorized Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to reshuffle his Cabinet, after a week of demonstrations and violent Palestinian protests against his government.

Observers say the move appears to be a concession to encourage Mr. Qureia to stay on in his post after he offered his resignation in the wake of violence and political unrest in the Gaza Strip.

Imad Falluji, a member of the Palestinian parliament, says that Mr. Arafat told him he has empowered Mr. Qureia to make any changes he wishes to the Cabinet.

Mr. Falluji is a member of a 14-member committee set up this week by the parliament to negotiate with the Palestinian president.

He says that Mr. Arafat also offered to give up his authority over the security forces.

Mr. Arafat has refused to confirm this, and, in the past, has always resisted pressure to hand over such powers.

Palestinian officials insist that the crisis will not be resolved, unless Mr. Arafat allows others a greater say in the government's decision-making process.

Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi says that major political reform is needed.

"The ongoing discussion on the Cabinet crisis in the whole Palestinian political system is not just a question of the prime minister or the government resigning," said Hanan Ashrawi. "We feel that this is an expression of a deeper crisis that has to be addressed within the political system. So, the discussion will be based on how to take serious, substantive, concrete measures and steps that will extradite the Palestinian people and the Palestinian political system from this ongoing state of stasis, helplessness and, of course, abuse."

Her comments came after gunmen from Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction held more demonstrations on Thursday in the Gaza Strip.

The protesters shouted slogans against Mr. Arafat's cousin, Musa, who was selected to become the new head of the Palestinian security forces earlier this week.

Mr. Arafat canceled the appointment in the face of public pressure, but the demonstrators say the Palestinian President's decision to retain Musa in a senior post is another example of corruption and political cronyism within the highest levels of government.