Palestinian prime minister to reshuffle cabinet in hopes of fresh start


PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh is due to make a limited cabinet reshuffle on Friday, in what appears to be a move designed to appease demand for Palestinian street reform. Shtayyeh’s boss, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is under enormous internal pressure.

The 85-year-old man, who has served as president since 2005, scheduled the first presidential and legislative elections last January in 15 and 16 years, respectively, and then postponed them indefinitely. His popularity has plummeted in recent years, according to opinion polls, and calls for his resignation have increased amid protests condemning the crackdown on freedoms and demanding change.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting in Ramallah last August. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN / REUTERS)

The internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is trying to show that it is receptive to
popular demands for reform, following growing criticism from Abbas’s security forces. The struggling leader scrambles to find ways to ease the pressure and build legitimacy.

Nour Odeh, a member of the movement’s steering committee of the Democratic National Assembly, questions the value of the partial reshuffle, declaring The media line the change of government takes place without any national consultation. “It is not clear what the criterion for consideration is; I think the names are irrelevant at this point, ”she said. “Why were these people changed? Why are these new names being proposed? “

“All this change does not solve the real problem, which is the lack of national dialogue on the deep crisis of the political system, the intransigence of power vis-à-vis the elections,” Odeh explains.

Supporters of Abbas’s Fatah party dominate the current government, and Odeh says it doesn’t look like things will be any different after Friday.

“The motivation for change was internal to Fatah. It had nothing to do with anything else; otherwise, there would have been some kind of national consultation. The crisis we are facing in our political system is much deeper than what can be resolved with a change of a few ministers here and there. It’s the system that recycles itself to swap faces, nothing more. It’s not a change of policy, it’s not a change of plans, it’s not really a change of anything, ”Odeh adds.

One of the cabinet members who will retain his post is Foreign Minister Riad Malki. Malki, a political independent, has been the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister since 2007. He is a former professor and head of the civil engineering department at Birzeit University, near Ramallah in the West Bank. But critics of Malki’s retention in office say there have been few notable foreign policy accomplishments he can take credit for since taking office.

Munir al-Jaghoub, a spokesperson for Fatah, told The Media Line that changes of government are occurring in many countries around the world, and that the current “main objective is to develop ministerial work and strengthen it with new skills ”.

Jaghoub defended the decision to keep the foreign minister on board. “Few governments replace their foreign ministers every four years. There are foreign ministers who build relationships, and it is important that they stay in office. “

Ramallah resident Marwan Khalaf is not happy with the news of a possible change. Without an election and a new government, this is all “nonsense,” he told The Media Line.

“From what we hear, this is not a government of change, it is just changes of faces, but the same policies will remain,” he said. Khalaf says keeping the foreign and finance ministers without accomplishments to show is “shameful.”

The cabinet reshuffle is an empty gesture and does not bring real change. No member of Fatah’s main political rival, Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, will be appointed to a post during the coming change. “Anyone who thinks this is real change is naïve; Abbas is trying to deceive everyone by telling him that he is making an effort for change, ”a Hamas official told The Media Line. The official, who asked that his name not be released because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, called the expected reshuffle “superficial”. “He should announce a date for the elections; that’s what people want, ”he adds.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said in a statement that this was not a cabinet reshuffle, but rather a “change in the approach and direction of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in terms of a continued bet on the American policy, which offers nothing to our people. but illusions.

The PFLP statement continued to criticize the possible reshuffle, saying, “Palestinian public opinion is questioning the feasibility of these cosmetic measures as our national cause goes through one of its most dangerous stages in terms of pursuing Israeli aggression against our people and all aspects of life. “

Odeh says the proposed new cabinet will have “the highest number of ministers and the lowest number of female ministers, just two.” We are in the midst of a financial crisis. This gives you an idea of ​​the president’s priorities.


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