Global Policy Forum

Fatah Party Decides to Support Abu Mazen's New Cabinet


By Aluf Benn and Amon Regular

April 28, 2003

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement decided Monday to back the new Cabinet proposed by incoming Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), boosting chances that the team of ministers will win approval in a parliament vote this week.

A "yes" vote would pave the way for the presentation of an internationally sponsored Mideast peace plan by the United States. The so-called road map envisions full Palestinian statehood within three years. U.S. President George W. Bush has linked the presentation of the plan to Abbas being installed as prime minister.

Asked if Israel will remove the blockade of the Muqata, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Monday that Arafat is the one who doesn't want to leave his Ramallah headquarters, Israel Radio reported. Shalom said Arafat believes his presence in the Muqata protects the 200 wanted Palestinians hiding there. Shalom spoke at a press conference with the Japanese foreign minister, who is scheduled to visit Arafat in his Ramallah compound Tuesday.

The forming of the new cabinet was preceded by five weeks of wrangling between Abu Mazen and Arafat who has been reluctant to share power. Last week, after intense international pressure, Arafat withdrew some of his challenges to Abbas' Cabinet, but continues to wield considerable influence because of his control over Fatah, which commands a solid majority in parliament.

On Monday, Fatah's ruling body, the Central Committee, decided to instruct Fatah legislators to support the Cabinet, said Nabil Sha'ath, the incoming foreign minister and a senior member of the movement.

"President Arafat and the Central Committee of Fatah will provide the new cabinet with all the Fatah support and personal support to win the vote of confidence tomorrow (Tuesday)," Sha'ath said. However, it was not clear whether all Fatah legislators would heed the instructions.

Following a Monday evening meeting in Ramallah's Muqata with Arafat and Fatah Palestinian Legislative Council members, senior legislator Saeb Erekat said Arafat asked Fatah members of the PLC to support the Abu Mazen government during the council's Tuesday confidence vote.

Erekat said the Abu Mazen government will receive the full support of the PLC. He also noted the new leadership will likely be approved by a wide majority.

Abu Mazen gives Arafat final list of ministers

Abu Mazen on Sunday handed his final list of ministers to Arafat's office, showing a number of changes from the original proposals. Missing from the list was Gen. Nasser Yusuf, who had been designated chief of police in the West Bank and Gaza. But new on the list was Maher al Masri, a Nablus man who will head a Ministry for National Economy.

There has been widespread criticism regarding Abu Mazen's proposed team, with some legislators complaining that he has appointed several politicians tainted by corruption and that he has failed to live up to expectations of a sweeping overhaul.

Abu Mazen tells Europeans will declare end to use of arms

Abu Mazen told European diplomats he met with in Ramallah that he will use his inaugural speech to declare an end to the use of arms to achieve Palestinian national aspirations.

Abu Mazen told the Europeans all future inputs of money to the PA, whether from donors, Europeans, or Arab countries would go to the PA treasury and would be overseen by Finance Minister Salam Fayyad.

On Sunday, Israel said it will allow nine members of the PLC who in the past were described as "involved in terror" to take part in the PLC session to confirm the government this week. No reasons were given for the change in policy, but it is probably because the nine said they would not take part in the session by video conference. This would prevent the necessary quorum for the PLC to confirm the government.

Ashrawi warns Abu Mazen not play game 'by the old rules'

Legislator Hanan Ashrawi, an independent, said she has not yet decided whether to vote "yes," and that much depends on the policy speech Abu Mazen is to deliver at the start of Tuesday's session in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Ashrawi said she was disappointed that Abu Mazen appears to have chosen cabinet ministers largely based on personal loyalties. She said she told the prime minister-designate in a recent meeting that "if you play the game by the old rules, the president (Arafat) will beat you because he is a master of this game."

Fatah and its supporters control 62 seats in the 85-member parliament. The legislature, elected in 1996, initially had 88 members, but two have died and one has resigned. In Tuesday's vote, Abbas needs an absolute majority of 43 legislators. One lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he has informally polled most of his colleagues and found that at least 47 would vote in favor of the Cabinet.




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