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Palestinian Emergency Cabinet Fails to Win Parliament's Support - 2003-10-09

The government of new Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia is in crisis, after failing to win the support of the parliament.

A vote on the government was postponed Thursday, after Palestinian lawmakers rebelled against the wishes of Mr. Qureia and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council expressed support for a broad-based ministry and not the narrow emergency Cabinet headed by Mr. Qureia, which was established earlier this week by special decree from Mr. Arafat.

Their appeal was rejected by a furious Mr. Arafat, who also ordered that a scheduled meeting of the parliament in the West Bank city of Ramallah be canceled.

Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat says it is possible that a larger Cabinet will now be established to replace the emergency body set up by Mr. Arafat, which could only have served for a short term.

"There is nothing that prevents us from enlarging the government," he said. "That is a possibility. Some people argue that we should come with a large Cabinet. Some people argue we should go with the same [emergency Cabinet], and we take our time. But whether we come with a large or a mini-Cabinet, by the end of three weeks from now, you must have your full Cabinet."

Further sessions of the parliament have been postponed indefinitely, while the Palestinian leadership attempts to deal with the crisis.

Another Palestinian lawmaker, Salah Tamari, says that the new Cabinet would have failed to win approval, if it had been formally presented to the parliament on Thursday.

Security has become an issue of dispute within the Palestinian leadership.

Nasser Yousef was to have been appointed the interior minister, a post that includes responsibility for several branches of the Palestinian security forces. However, he refused to be sworn in before a new Cabinet has the approval of the parliament.

Mr. Arafat is now reportedly demanding that Mr. Qureia remove Mr. Yousef from the Cabinet line-up.

In response, Mr. Qureia said he would not dismiss Mr. Yousef, and instead offered to resign as prime minister.