Abbas and Fayyad Set to Reshuffle PA Cabinet

After reports of a schism over a letter sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the top PA leaders plan to shake up Ramallah's cabinet

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Gabe Kahn,

Salam Fayyad
Salam Fayyad

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad are set to reshuffle the cabinet in Ramallah.

According to the Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency, Fayyad will remain prime minister while relinquishing control of the PA's finance ministry to Nabil Qassis.

Qassis currently heads the Yasser Arafat Foundation and is a former president of Birzeit University in Ramallah.

A new deputy prime minister will be appointed and several other unnamed ministers will also be replaced, Maan reported.

Senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad told official PA radio that Abbas and Fayyad began consultations before Abbas left for Tunisia on Saturday.

Fayyad has also started consultations over the cabinet reshuffle, and is expected to include both Islamists and independents in the new cabinet.

Talks between Abbas and Fayyad – which took place this week in Ramallah – reportedly did not address the recent schism that has emerged between the two.

The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that a "silent crisis" had emerged after Fayyad refused to deliver a letter from Abbas to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in April.

The letter was sharply critical of Israel – saying the Netanyahu government had robbed the PA of its raison d’etre – and threatening to continue a unilateral track in favor of bilateral negotiations.

The letter also reiterated PA preconditions for talks known to be non-starters with Israeli officials. Namely, accepting the indefensible pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a PA state, a second construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, and the release of all Arab terrorists from Israel’s prisons.

Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Fayyad dropped out of the delegation due to a disagreement with PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Erekat sharply criticized the report as "mean" and complained neither he nor Fayyad were contacted for comment. Fayyad, however, has refused to comment.

The exact nature of the disagreement over Abbas' letter between Fayyad and Erekat remains unknown.

Sources in Ramallah told Maan that "a full cabinet reshuffle" will take place once Abbas returns from North Africa.