Palestinian observers said the nomination of Qurei is a signal that Arafat has formally accepted Abbas’ resignation and that the former prime minister will no longer serve in the Palestinian Authority. Abbas has also said his decision is final.
“I don’t want to take part in any government,” Abbas told the Associated Press. “That’s why I resigned.”
Abbas’ tenure, which began in April after his election by the Palestinian parliament, was marked by a continuous and contentious power struggle with Arafat.
Qurei is a member of Arafat’s ruling Fatah party, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, a former member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and a co-author, along with Abbas, of the 1993 Oslo peace accords.
The 65-year-old nominee said Monday that he will only accept the prime minister position if he is supported by Arafat and if the United States guarantees that Israel will uphold its obligations under the internationally backed “road map” to peace, which he said would mean an end to military action against Palestinians.
“I don’t want to see more military checkpoints. I don’t want to see assassination of Palestinians. I don’t want to see the demolishing of houses,” Qurei told the AP.
Israel has said Palestinian officials have not done enough to stop terrorism and that it will continue targeting Palestinian militants and their leaders who are planning attacks against innocent Israelis.
The United States does not support Israel’s policy of assassination of militant leaders, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Powell said Israeli leaders feel their actions are necessary but that U.S. officials have urged them to “consider the long-term consequences.”
Powell also called on Palestinian leaders to take a stand against militant groups.
“They have to decide on a cause of peace. They have to decide that, once and for all, all weapons inside the Palestinian Authority, any form of power inside the Palestinian Authority, has to be under legal control,” Powell said on Meet the Press. “You cannot be a responsible government if you have terrorist organizations operating within your areas of responsibility that go after innocent people and, frankly, destroy the dreams of your own people.”
The Palestinian Authority created the post of prime minister following an international diplomatic effort designed to dilute Arafat’s influence. The American government said last year that it would not deal with Arafat because he had been too accommodating to terrorist groups.
Arafat, however, was reportedly reluctant to cede any power to Abbas, leading to a division in the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas feuded with Arafat over control of Palestinian security forces. In his resignation statement, Abbas said clashes with Arafat and Israel’s refusal to uphold its obligations under the road map made the goals of the prime minister position impossible to fulfill.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office issued a statement Saturday that said Israel will not accept Arafat as the leader of the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli cabinet will reportedly hold a meeting to discuss what to do about Arafat within the next few days, the AP reported. Cabinet members could vote to expel Arafat from Palestinian territory or to isolate him by cutting off his access to visitors and phone and electrical services.
Reacting to concerns that in-fighting among Palestinians and continued military action by Israel have killed the road map, Powell said that he believes the peace process can move forward, but only if Palestinian leaders work to stop terrorism.
“If there is going to be a process to peace, if the road map is going to continue to unfold — and I believe it can continue to unfold — then there has to be a concerted effort against Hamas and other terrorist organizations and terror activity,” the secretary said.
The Palestinian foreign minister, Nabil Sha’ath, said Monday that the “peace process did not die and the principles we had agreed upon are acceptable to everybody.”