Thursday, February 24, 2005


New Palestinian Cabinet, A Wobbly Step Forward for Fateh

After a bit of a delay and much maneuvering, the Palestinian Legislative Council agreed to Ahmad Qurei`'s latest list of cabinet appointments, leading to 17 new faces out of 23 (24 if you include Qurei`). Not a bad turnover, if you ask me. Unfortunately, the al-Jazeera "biographies" of selected members of the cabinet mostly looks at some of the established players, and ignores most of the fresh faces, which is a shame.

Nabil Shaath is being held up as one of the few remaining Arafat stalwarts, but even his position has shifted from that of foreign minister to deputy prime minister, essentially a symbolic senior minister without portfolio (as seen in the Israeli government with Shimon Peres).

Danny Rubinstein's analysis in Ha'aretz indicates that the maneuvering was a victory for the "young guard" of Fateh that is more powerful in the PLC and a step away from the cronyism of Arafat and the "old guard." In fact, many in the PLC had hoped for Qurei`'s resignation.

All this probably is going to be helpful for Fateh in the upcoming parliamentary elections. As Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki has pointed out, one of the stronger draws of Hamas in terms of public opinion is the belief that the PA (dominated by Fateh) is a corrupt body and that Hamas is relatively free of corruption. The cabinet overhaul does much to combat the image of corruption in the PA and Fateh by tossing out the Arafat cronies. Furthermore, it gives Fateh a younger, more dynamic image. While Fateh continues to represent the status quo, this could shake some of its image of being stagnant, outdated, and inflexible.

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