Palestinian Prime Minister Threatens to Resign
One Palestinian official told Reuters, ”Qurei told Arafat he will not form the Cabinet and doesn’t want to be prime minister anymore.”
The dispute between the two leaders, and the unease among members of the Palestinian Legislative Council over Arafat’s unauthorized appointment of a new emergency Cabinet, led to the cancellation of a parliamentary session in which the Council was set to vote on Qurei’s Cabinet. According to a CNN report, sources within the Council seemed “unhappy” with some of Qurei’s chosen members.
Qurei has been trying to form a new Palestinian government in an effort to move forward with the U.S.-backed “road map” to Middle East peace. His threat on Thursday appeared to be over his appointment of Nasser Youssef as interior minister in charge of Palestinian security forces. Youssef’s main role would be to coordinate the overthrow of militant groups like Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Arafat, who has refused in the past to turn over security control to the Cabinet, threatened to dismiss Youssef. On Tuesday, Youssef boycotted his swearing-in ceremony, citing a reluctance to begin his duties without the full backing of the Palestinian Authority.
This is not the first time Arafat has clashed with Palestinian prime ministers over security issues. In September, then Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, resigned after Arafat refused to relinquish control over security forces, a move Abbas deemed contradictory to peace efforts.
As Palestinian officials quarreled over security measures in Ramallah, a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Israeli checkpoint near Tulkarm, a West Bank city on the Israeli border. Two Israeli soldiers and a Palestinian man were wounded. The bomber, identified as 18-year-old Ahmed Mustafa Safadi, according to Reuters, was the second suicide bomber to strike this week. On Saturday, a young Palestinian woman detonated a bomb outside an Israeli restaurant in the northern city of Haifa, killing herself and 19 civilians.
Also Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the Israeli government could not continue to avoid war. Al-Assad’s comments came after Israel’s bombing Sunday of an alleged terrorist camp in Syria in response to Saturday’s suicide attack.
“The Israeli government is a government of war and cannot continue without war,” Assad said, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.
Assad’s remarks came during a meeting with the United Nations’ Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen in Damascus. Larsen has urged Syria to avoid military conflict with Israel since the strike on Sunday, which Syrian officials said targeted a civilian area.