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New PA Government Includes Ministerial Changes

PA prime minister Rami Hamdallah's new cabinet, includes changes in around half the ministerial portfolios.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/7/2013, 4:46 AM

Rami Hamdallah
Rami Hamdallah
Reuters

Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah's new cabinet, which was sworn in on Thursday evening, includes changes in around half the ministerial portfolios, an official told the AFP news agency.

Hamdallah succeeded Salam Fayyad, who resigned in April after months of difficult relations with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and stayed on in a caretaker capacity until Hamdallah's appointment on Sunday.

The new line-up will see two deputy premiers take office, a high-ranking PA official told AFP. These will be former foreign minister Ziad Abu Amr, and Mohammed Mustafa, an economy adviser to Abbas and head of the Palestinian investment fund.

Banker and economist Shukri Bishara will take over the finance ministry, and Kamal al-Shirafi, from Gaza, will be minister of social affairs, the official said.

Ali Zaydan -- head of Gaza's Al-Aqsa University and the Arab American University in Jenin, will move from the transport and communications ministry to that of higher education, said the official.

Nabil al-Dumeidi will take over the communications portfolio. Medics unionist Jawad Awad will be health minister, and the local government ministry will be headed by Saed al-Kuni.

All the other ministries will remain in the same hands, the official said, with 15 ministers being sworn in in front of Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah.

Hamdallah has stressed that his administration would rule only for "a transitional period" until formation of a unity government of comprising Abbas's Fatah faction and the rival Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Such a coalition is laid out in as-yet unfulfilled unity agreements signed in Cairo in 2011 and in Doha the following year.

At a meeting in Cairo on May 14, Abbas and Hamas set a three-month time frame to implement key provisions of the 2011 agreement.

"Let's be optimists and hope that we can achieve a unity government on August 14, and I will do everything in my power to do so," Hamdallah said, according to AFP. "I ask all Palestinian factions to work together to end this sad situation of division."

The Hamas government in Gaza has already slammed Fatah for creating a new PA government, noting that Abbas’ move “proves that the Fatah leadership is willing to maintain and prolong the state of disagreement.”

Hamas sources noted that they have no objections to Hamdallah in particular. Their objection is over the fact that a new government does not include Hamas and was created unilaterally, they said.

Middle East expert Dr. Guy Bechor told Arutz Sheva this week that Hamdallah’s appointment means virtually nothing, since Abbas’s term as PA Chairman ended years ago, but he continues in his role despite no one having given him the mandate to do so.

The PA parliament which was elected for a four-year term in 2005 has yet to be dissolved, despite the fact that nearly two terms have already passed since its election, Bechor noted.