[[ Jerusalem Times : Opinion ]]

 

October 15, 2005

 

This Week in Palestine…Behind the News with Hanna Siniora

 

Ahmed Qurei

 

The cabinet of PM Qurei is going to remain intact, no changes in its composition, no cabinet reshuffle, no minister to be dropped and no new minister to be added. President Mahmoud Abbas and PM Qurei, for the meantime, overcame their differences and decided, despite the recommendation by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) asking for the formation of a new cabinet within two weeks, to keep the present cabinet until November 24, 2005.

 

President Abbas before leaving the country for Jordan on his way to Paris and Washington, informed the PLC Speaker Rawhi Fattouh of his decision to postpone the formation of a new cabinet until Nov. 24, when a new caretaker cabinet will be installed to conduct the fourth round of local elections by mid-December and the parliamentary PLC elections on time in January 25, 2006.

 

Abbas left it to PM Qurei to announce that no reshuffle is taking place and it was confirmed by his departure outside the country, as no cabinet changes can occur while he is abroad.

 

Next Monday the PLC will convene, some members including the PLC Speaker Rawhi Fattouh might consider further action on their recommendation or as generally felt accept the decision of the President.

 

Abbas-Bush summit

 

President Abbas is already in Jordan. A meeting between him and King Abdullah of Jordan will discuss the postponed Abbas-Sharon meeting, and the King of Jordan will extend his good offices in preparing such a meeting sometime in November. Both leaders realize that a major a breakthrough is not expected both Abbas and Sharon have political constraints that tie their hands, and no major political development, but only cosmetic changes can take place until after the Israeli Knesset elections in November 2006.

 

On the 17th, instant President Abbas will meet President Chirac in Paris. The French President will reiterate EU support for the Road Map plan, beyond that France can offer scholarships on a similar scale to what was given to the late Yasser Arafat; in addition to borrowing a leaf from the past offering subsidized French machinery at attractive prices, to allow the revival of the Palestinian economy. Improved Israeli-French relations might allow France better opportunities to influence developments in the conflict, especially in allowing Hamas to participate in the PLC elections without Israeli hindrances.

 

The summit meeting with President Bush, in the White House, October 21, is the most urgent and important encounter. Abbas will urge Bush to back the resumption of negotiations, by considering the redeployment out of Gaza a step in the Road Map process. The removal of the illegal outposts would be an integral part of the agenda of discussions, as well as continued economic support to rebuild and improve the infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank.

 

Yet the most important discussion will be to allow the PLC elections and the participation of Hamas to take place on time and unhindered. Abbas can claim an important achievement, if he can convince President Bush, that Hamas participation in the PLC elections is a key part of Abbas plan to integrate Hamas in the Palestinian political system, and bring changes by transforming Hamas into a political party with responsibility in good governance and the respect of law and order. If Abbas can come out of the summit with Bush with this accomplishment, then it will be a major triumph for Abbas policies of how to proceed forward in building good governance and security in Palestine. It is imperative that Abbas succeeds with Bush on this issue to whether the cold period of lack of political progress in 2006, until Israel decides its next Knesset.

 

PLC elections

 

In Palestine all the political movements agree that there should not be any postponement of national elections in January 2006. Also all are adamant that free and fair elections should be conducted with the participation of all the parties including Hamas.

 

In Fatah, preparation to conduct primaries to select candidates for the local district and national lists will take place by the end of October. Fatah adopted the primaries as the only democratic process to allow the younger generation a fair chance to be represented at the highest level.

 

Earnest work is ongoing in creating a united third list to compete on an equal level with Fatah and Hamas. So far, the efforts have not succeeded on who and how candidates should be selected and it is hindering the announcement of such a force. A platform that represents the political consensus of this third force is ready, but the individual participants need more time to organize. Time is running out, a well organized and representative third force has an excellent chance of achieving respectable results, the next three weeks will tell if such a group will emerge.

 

In Hamas a debate is ongoing, should Hamas capitalize on its support in Palestine or continue the resistance struggle. Hamas like the PLO previously, which was depicted as a terrorist organization, feels it's facing a turning point and has to come to terms to the global political realities. It is early to tell what course Hamas leadership will take; they should take the extended hand of Abbas and like the IRA join in the political struggle for an independent sovereign Palestine.

 

Erekat-Peres

 

The outline of an agreement on the crossings in Gaza, are similar to the outline of a final settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hopefully wise politicians will help the people of Gaza breathe more freely by agreeing on an arrangement for people and goods to move freely and not to wait until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

 

Erekat and Peres had a good meeting, let us hope that soon they will announce the results.