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Palestinian Parliament Approves New Cabinet

The 54-12 vote paved the way for a swearing-in ceremony conducted by Abbas. The new cabinet is widely seen as a step toward government reform in the Palestinian Authority, which has been accused by Palestinians and outsiders of rampant corruption.

The cabinet members are reportedly a highly professional group; over half hold doctoral degrees. Most are considered experts in their fields.

“They are young and professional, and I think they are capable of carrying out their jobs,” Abbas said. “We have chosen them very carefully.”

A member of Abbas’ Fatah party said the cabinet members were picked from a list of 100 “top professionals.”

The seating of the cabinet came after four days of debate between some members of parliament and Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who reportedly wanted to appoint aides of deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to the cabinet.

Abbas reportedly intervened in the dispute, convincing members of his Fatah party to support the list of “professional” candidates instead of the former political allies of Arafat.

Some legislators and observers said the vote in parliament was a political blow to Qurei and a repudiation of “cronyism” in Palestinian political affairs.

“It’s a turning point in the rationale, the approach and the methodology of forming cabinets, in going beyond political patronage … and to look for people who can deliver,” Palestinian parliament member Hanan Ashrawi said.

Fatah legislator Hatem Abdul Kader said the vote would send a message to the Palestinian public and show “the insistence of the legislative council to continue with policies of reform and change in order to avoid reform being a slogan without content.”

Israeli government officials called the seating of the new cabinet a “positive step,” but said the group would finally be judged for its ability to control violent militant groups.

Palestinian supporters of the cabinet said new interior minister Nasser Yousef has a record of being tough on militants. Other new members of the cabinet include Civil Affairs Minister Mohammad Dahlan, a former security chief for Gaza, and Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, a former Palestinian representative to the United Nations.

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