Palestinian Cabinet Resigns; Fayyad to Form Government

Palestinian Cabinet Resigns; Fayyad to Form Government
Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad heads a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Photographer: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images

The Palestinian Authority Cabinet resigned today and President Mahmoud Abbas called on the prime minister to form a more inclusive government in advance of elections, spokesman Ghassan Khatib said.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad presented the Cabinet’s resignation to Abbas today at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The authority announced Feb. 12 that it was preparing to hold presidential and legislative elections, the first polling in more than five years, by September.

The moves follow mass protests that led to the overthrow of the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia and have inspired pro-democracy demonstrations across the Middle East.

Abbas, popularly known as Abu Mazen, is reshuffling his government because of a lack of progress on some of the most pressing issues facing Palestinians, including peace talks with Israel and reconciliation with the Islamic Hamas movement, said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip.

“This move is in part to get out of the stalemate,” Abusada said in a telephone interview. “Keeping the situation as it is isn’t good for Abu Mazen, it isn’t good for the Palestinian Authority and it isn’t good for Palestine.”

Khatib said Abbas “hopes the new Cabinet will be more inclusive.”

The next Cabinet is likely to include a broader range of voices, Abusada said.

Hamas Participation

The term of the existing parliament and president ended more than a year ago. New balloting hasn’t been held because Hamas has said it won’t participate in elections until Hamas and the Palestinian Authority reconcile their split.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, ending a partnership government with Fatah after winning parliamentary elections.

The split in the two Palestinian factions, which has left Abbas in control of the West Bank only, has been cited by Israel as an obstacle in reaching any peace agreement that would establish an independent state.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat resigned last week saying he was taking responsibility for the leak of confidential documents from his office to al-Jazeera television.

Al-Jazeera last month released memos and e-mails from meetings that showed that Palestinian negotiators were prepared to give up claims to parts of east Jerusalem and swap some Jewish settlements in the West Bank for territory within Israel in 2008 talks. The television station didn’t say how it obtained the documents. Erakat has said the reports were “taken out of context.”

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