Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Ellul 5763 - September 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Arafat Appoints a New Prime Minister
by M. Plaut

There was a personnel shift in the Palestinian Authority as Mahmoud Abbas resigned on Saturday and Ahmed Qurei (also known as Abu Ala) was selected by Yasser Arafat to take his place. Israeli government sources said that the selection of a prime minister is an internal Palestinian process and they will deal with the new prime minister according to the way he performs. The sources said that Abu Ala is a stronger person than Mahmoud Abbas and more determined to advance himself, but that ultimately he probably has no intention of fighting terror.

Abu Ala was the speaker of the Palestinian parliament. His appointment must be confirmed by the Palestinian parliament, which is expected to convene soon.

Earlier Qurei said that he would not be able to govern without Arafat's support, and he said Israel must change its approach to the PA chairman. He also said he would only accept the job if Washington and Europe guarantee Israeli compliance with the road map. Later he seemed to accept the position unconditionally.

Israel and the United States believe that Arafat does not want peace and say that he is behind terror and refuse to deal with him. Arafat remained in his headquarters for over 18 months. Israel says he is free to leave but he may not be allowed back.

In resigning, Mahmoud Abbas said that the United States had not done enough to enforce Israeli compliance with the internationally-brokered road map for Middle East peace.

An EU spokeswoman said that Qurei is highly respected by the European Union and can count on the 15-nation bloc's support for peacemaking.

The U.S. State Department was cautious about Qurei on Monday, although U.S. officials have dealt with him extensively over the years and on some occasions have praised him in public.

"Whoever becomes the new Palestinian prime minister, we're looking to see if he has the commitment, the authority and the resources to move forward on the road map," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

"At this juncture that means principally to move forward on taking control of the security situation in acting against groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad," he told a briefing.

Qurei said that he wants to improve the lives of Palestinians who have largely been confined to their communities by a network of Israeli military barriers during the past three years of fighting.

Earlier Monday, Qurei met with Andrei Vdovin, the Russian envoy to the Middle East.

Ahmed Qurei has long been the No. 3 leader in the Fatah movement, after Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. He was a key player in the secret talks that led to the 1993 Oslo accords, which led to Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. He also led the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel in the following years.

The 65-year-old politician is considered one of the few Palestinians who have credibility with Israel but can also count on the support of Arafat.

In February, Qurei was quoted as saying he was not interested in the prime minister's job. "I'm not interested in this position, not today, not tomorrow, and not after some years," he said.

Last year, Qurei said the Palestinian Authority had to take measures to convince the Israeli peace camp that it has a peace partner and that the Palestinians want peace. Qurei also said that Palestinian mistakes were among the reasons that many Israelis no longer supported peace and that the Right had come to power in Israel.

"Unfortunately, even the other [peace] movement has begun to dwindle in Israel apparently due to some of the methods that we use," he said. "We are not talking about legitimate resistance here. But I do say that some of the actions that harm us need to stop. We must know how to organize a proper resistance so that it will bring results and not disappointment."

Shortly after the Camp David talks broke down, Qurei hinted that violence would be an option for the Palestinians.

"When we are convinced a peace agreement is not possible, no doubt our people and the leadership of the Palestinian people will have other alternatives," Qurei told a news conference in Ramallah in August 2000, less than two months before the intifadah's outbreak. "We have the right to struggle in all ways to achieve the rights of our people, to put an end to the occupation of our land. I am not calling for violence, but I don't know how the people will react."

Qurei was born in 1937, joined Arafat's Fatah movement in 1965, and became the PLO's top money manager by 1983. He returned with the PLO from Tunis in 1994 after the Oslo Accords. Since his return, he has been living in his home village of Abu Dis, southeast of Jerusalem.


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