Ma’an News reported from Ramallah today that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad lost his dual role as finance minister in a government reshuffle on Wednesday, as President Mahmoud Abbas swore in 9 new ministers.
Fayyad was replaced by Nabil Qassis, a former university president, who like Fayyad is a political independent. Qassis will have to deal with fiscal problems posed by drops in aid and Israeli restrictions.
Ma’an news agency reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reminded the new cabinet that it is merely a transitional one, meant to fill the gap until reconciliation with Hamas is realised.
Abbas said that the first task of the government was to prepare for municipal elections in all parts of the land “where possible” — a reference to Jerusalem, where Israel will prevent elections from taking place, and the Gaza Strip, where Hamas said it would not allow elections to go forward.
An adviser to Hamas’s Prime Minister, Youssef Rizqah, told Maan that the decision to reshuffle the cabinet was a result of financial and administrative corruption on the part of former ministers. Rizqah says that the decision to appoint a new government made a mockery of the Palestinian parliament, the Legislative Council. He also criticized the timing of the announcement which coincided with Nakba Day, a national day of mourning marking the establishment of Israel.
Sworn into new roles were Ali Jarbawi as Higher Education Minister, Jawad Naji as Economy Minister, Rula Maayeh as Minister of Tourism, Safa Nasser el-Din, Telecommunications, Ali Abu Zuhri, Transportation, Adnan Husseini for Jerusalem Affairs, Ali Muhanna for Justice, Mahmoud Abu Ramadan at Planning, Hani Abdeen forHealth and Walid Assaf as Agriculture Minister.
The shakeup added figures affiliated to Fatah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Democratic Union (Fida) and other independents. The new government now includes six women.
This is the second reshuffle for the Ramallah-based government which was first established in June 2007 under Fayyad.