http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Sto...ng new cabinet
Conal Urquhart in Ramallah
Tuesday April 15, 2003
Yasser Arafat has angrily rejected his prime minister's proposed cabinet, a reaction which endangers the whole process of Palestinian reform demanded by the international community.
He was particularly annoyed that Mahmoud Abbas has passed over his supporters and appointed people he distrusts.
Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, who is keen to start afresh, has retained only one person from the previous cabinet which Mr Arafat appointed as president of the Palestinian Authority, his finance minister Salam Fayyad.
Mr Abbas hopes to demote or remove Arafat loyalists such as Hani al-Hassan, the interior minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, the information minister, and Saeb Erekat, the local affairs minister.
He wants to appoint Mohammed Dahlan minister of interior affairs (essentially internal security), Nabil Amr information minister and Nasser Yusef, head of the Palestinian national security force, deputy prime minister.
His row with Mr Arafat occurred at a meeting of the Fatah central committee at Mr Arafat's headquarters in Ram allah on Sunday night. Mr Arafat flew into a characteristic rage but then softened, quoting the Koran to try to bring round Mr Abbas and the committee.
"Take pity on an old leader who has fallen," he is reported to have told the meeting.
Other sources close to Mr Arafat said he was finding it hard to let go of his responsibilities, having been so involved in every aspect of Palestinian political life.
Khalil Shiqaqi, a Palestinian political scientist in Ramallah, said that he expected the row to last a couple of days before Mr Abbas either prevailed or baled out and left the peace process in limbo.
"Abu Mazen has been trying his best to form a government that will neutralise Arafat and his supporters as much as possible while also trying to please many other constituencies such as Fatah and the international community," he said.
"Arafat is not happy that his men are being sidelined and that people he tried to marginalise are being promoted. Abu Mazen will either say this is my list, take it or leave it, or he will make a few necessary changes."
The appointment of a prime minister is the first reform demanded by the "road map", which President George Bush has promised to publish soon, setting out the path to an independent Palestinian state and a series of steps along the way.
Mohammed Hourani, a member of the Palestinian legislative council, said Mr Arafat should not concern himself with the composition of the cabinet. "Arafat as president must have a wider vision. He should not concentrate on details," he said.
A significant issue for many of the more senior Palestinian politicians is the elevation of people seen as junior.
An opinion poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research this month found that Mr Arafat remained the most popular Palestinian leader for 35% of those polled, while the jailed Marwan Barghouti was second with 20%. Mr Abbas, who has virtually no public recognition, scored 3%.