Was Mahmoud Abbas in a hurry to form his new "national consensus" Palestinian government ahead of Sisi's inauguration today?

Here is a screenshot photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walking into the post-inaugural reception of Egypt’s newly-installed President AbdelFattah Sisi, in Cairo today — the screenshot was Tweeted here:

Hany Rasmy ‏@hany2m — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, arrives at Ittihadiya palace – pic.twitter.com/Firhbp1a63

President Mahmoud Abbas followed by security + by Saeb Erekat attend Sisi inaugural reception in Cairo
President Mahmoud Abbas followed by security + by Saeb Erekat attend Sisi inaugural reception in Cairo

Samer Al-Atrush @SameralAtrush · Abbas arrives at Ittihadiya with Erekat in tow [n.b. – Erekat is wearing blue shirt, walking behind security men who are behind Abbas…]

Alex Ortiz ‏@azortiz — #Egypt’s presidential palace is crowded with well-wishing Gulf monarchs. Tahrir seems to have a couple hundred #Sisi supporters celebrating.


Sisi’s inauguration comes just a week after Abbas’ ceremony to swear in the new Palestinian government — and it seems that having the new government [later dubbed a government of “national conciliation”] in place by the time of Sisi’s inauguration was a significant consideration in pushing it through.  That it’s also in Hamas’ higher interest — to repair damaged relations with Egypt’s govenment and to reopen Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai — explains why Hamas went along with Abbas’ big push, despite differences and reservations on several points of the arrangements.

Big things are expected to come out of discussions between Abbas and Sisi [and probably some of the Gulf VIPs] during these inauguration festivities in Cairo.– even though Abbas is expected at the Vatican this evening for a joint prayer for peace in the Middle East with Israel’s State President Shimon Peres, at the suggestion and invitation of Pope Francis.

In preparation for these discussions, it is being reported by Al-Quds newspaper in Jerusalem that President Abbas yesterday [Saturday] received Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and the Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil elAraby, and held discussion about the region but focussed particularly on the new Palestinian government.

These may have been two separate meetings, because Egypt’s The Daily News is reporting on Abbas’ meeting with Fahmy here

Continue reading Was Mahmoud Abbas in a hurry to form his new "national consensus" Palestinian government ahead of Sisi's inauguration today?

A "top Egyptian official" says President Abbas is requested to reopen presidential HQ in Gaza

A “top Egyptian official” has reportedly told the private Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that Egypt will request President Mahmoud Abbas to re-open Palestinian presidential headquarters in Gaza.  This is reported here

The same report says that Egypt’s President-elect AbdelFattah Sisi [who will be inaugurated in Cairo on Sunday, tomorrow] + Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will also consider opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt’s Sinai and Gaza — as long as the ‘legal’ Palestinian authorities will be ‘directing’ it…

Disorder at Gaza banks as Hamas employees protest no pay as Ramallah staff getting salaries

Gaza banks have been closed after disorder broke out at banks and ATM cash machines when the idled staff of the Palestinian Government received salary deposits in their accounts, while those hired by Hamas in Gaza since the “military” and “political” coups in June 2007 received nothing…

This is a huge internal problem, which is not being addressed with the required speed or seriousness.

Meanwhile, external pressure is building for Mahmoud Abbas action to take control of the Hamas security forces in Gaza — another explosive issue, with no indication of planning or preparation yet, either…

Still no official Palestinian list of the new government – but it's being called a "national consensus government"

So far, two days after a new government was sworn in, neither the Palestinian Government Spokesperson Ehab Bseiso nor the Government Media Center that he heads in the Prime Minister’s office, have distributed a list of the ministers, or of their portfolios…

There is a page here [in Arabic] on the website of the Prime Minister’s office which has the photos of most of the cabinet ministers – but some photos are repeated two or more times, if the minister was given two or more portfolios, and it’s a bit clumsy]…
UPDATE: And there is a worthy effort done by a clever intern at the Foundation of Middle East Peace in Washington DC, here — but in the light of statements being made, and lists NOT being published, it has become clear that neither Hamdallah nor al-Ayssa are Minister of Prisoners — The fact seems to be, nobody is…

How is it that there is no official list?  This is the minimum a new government should be able to do.

Everybody expects that this is just an interim situation, but there still should be a list — unless, of course, the idea is to hide something, or to be ambiguous and unclear…

Inevitably, the conclusion is drawn that this has to be, for some reason, deliberate.

Meanwhile, we have received the text of the statement made to the media by Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah yesterday morning, after he chaired the first meeting of the new 17th Palestinian Government — which he said “is a is a national consensus government”.

Hamdallah noted that this new government “is based on the foundation of an independent and national technocracy”.

And, he said, “This government sustains the President’s vision and will implement the PLO political agenda”.

Continue reading Still no official Palestinian list of the new government – but it's being called a "national consensus government"

There is still no official Palestinian list of the new Palestinian government

The new Palestinian Government Cabinet meet in Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s office in Tuesday morning in Ramallah.

But, even by the end of the day, there was still not official Palestinian list of the members of the new Palestinian Government…Asked for a list on Tuesday afternoon, Dr Ehab Bseisso, the Palestinian Government Spokesman, told me a list of ministers in the new government “is being prepared” and “will be distributed to journalists”…See our post yesterday for best available information on this.

The four members of the new government who live in Gaza participated in Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting by videoconference — as we learned only from Twitter.

@rudoren · Per @galberger , 4 new Gaza-based ministers (barred by Israel from WB) partake via video in Palestinian Cabinet mtg https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BpMgO77CAAEIskq.jpg …

The four Ministers from Gaza in the new Palestinian government
The four Ministers from Gaza in the new Palestinian government participate in cabinet meeting by videoconference

They are:
Hayfa al-Agha – Minister of Women’s Affairs
Salem as-Safa [al-Saqqa?] – Minister of Justice
Mufeed Hassayneh – Minister of Public Works + Housing
Ma’moun Abu Shahla – Minister of Labor

Ehab Bseisso also told me the four (4) ministers coming from Gaza — including the “important” Ministers of Justice + of Labor — got all the way to Erez Terminal before they were turned back and not allowed to proceed through to Ramallah for yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony. That is, the four ministers went through the Hamas checkpoint, through the Palestinian Authority checkpoint, and they walked one kilometer on foot under observation by soldiers in a military tower, before they could enter the Erez Terminal — and they then were told they could not proceed…

All this information [which he alternatively dismissed as “details”] was in the news, Dr. Bseisso said [though none of it was]. He insisted that the only question that should be asked is why Israel would not allow them through.

Why was there a videoconference today, for the cabinet meeting [but not yesterday, for the swearing-in]? After more verbal sparring, Dr. Bseisso said that they believed assurances they had received up until the last minute that everything would be fine [despite prominently-published news reports on Sunday saying that Israel would not allow the ministers from Gaza to come to Ramallah]. So, they had made no preparations for a videoconference.

However, as it was now clear that the ministers could not travel, a videoconference was arranged for today, Dr. Bseisso explained…

In remarks to journalists today in Ramallah, PM Hamdallah reportedly said that “All members of the government will go to Gaza despite the measures taken by Israel to prevent Gaza-based ministers from going to Ramallah” …apparently, even if this means travelling to Gaza via Egypt rather than via Israel. This was reported by the Times of Israel, here.

Continue reading There is still no official Palestinian list of the new Palestinian government

Mahmoud Abbas puts together [+ pushes through] a new Palestinian Government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new Palestinian Government today in the Ramallah Muqata’a.

So far, it’s being called the “new government”… [UPDATE [see above]:  the following day, PM Hamdallah willl refer to it as “a national consensus government”…]

This group portrait [minus those stuck in Gaza, and  it turns out there are four] was taken after the new ministers present were sworn in, one-by-one, and was posted on Twitter here by @TPM [Talking Points Memo], and illustrates their post, here — [AP Photo / Majdi Mohammed] :

Group portrait of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the new Palestinian Government
Group portrait of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the new Palestinian Government

Putting together information from several sources, plus my own monitoring of the event televised live at 1:00 pm, this is the best I could do to come up with a list of the ministers in the new governmen:

1. Rami Hamdallah – Prime Minister + Interior Minister
2. Ziyad Abu Amr – Deputy PM + Minister of Culture  – originally from Gaza, not living there
3. Muhammad Mustafa – Deputy PM + Minister of National Economy

4. Shukri Bishara – Finance Minister + Planning Minister
5. Riyad al-Maliki – Foreign Minister
6. Adnan Husseini – Minister of Jerusalem Affairs

Three from Gaza [CORR: there are four {4} living in Gaza who were denied permission by Israel to leave and travel to Ramallah, and there was no videoconference of the swearing-in ceremony, either – the fourth is #13, see below, who is also the 3rd lady minister in this new government]…
7. Mustafa Salim as-Saqqa – [Gaza = absent] – Minister of Justice
8. Mufeed Hassayneh – [Gaza = absent] – Minister of Public Works + Housing
9. Ma’moun Abu Shahla – [Gaza = absent] – Labor Minister

Objections from Hamas in Gaza centered primarily around Abbas’ planned elimination of a Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs [due to objections from major donors, especially the USA]. The objections were resolved at the last minute by preemption + obfuscation:

10. Shawqi al-Aiyssa – Minister of Agriculture + Minister of Social Affairs

It was later explained – incorrectly, and this was just part of the confusion –  that al-Aiyssa was given a third portfolio, Prisoners… but at the moment he was sworn in, no such thing was announced.
UPDATE 1: It became clear hours later that in fact he was NOT sworn in as Minister of Prisoner Affairs, as I confirmed when I re-watched the video when it was shown during the 9 pm news and when I spoke to Palestinian Government Spokesman Dr. Ehab Bseisso [on Tuesday afternoon June 2], who told me that PM Rami Hamdallah had appointed Shawqi al-Aiysa, AFTER the swearing-in ceremony — just to “oversee” Prisoners’ Affairs…
UPDATE 2: PM Hamdallah said to the media the next morning [again, see above]: “Concerning the issue of transforming the Ministry of Detainees to a commission under the PLO, the government regards this as the part of the President’s mandate and the PLO’s responsibility. For the time being, Mr. Shawqi Al-Ayasseh will assume the role of caretaker of the Ministry of Detainees”.

Three women ministers – previously, there was never more than one at a time
11. Rula Maaya’ – [a woman, who served in the same post in the immediately preceeding government] – Tourism + Antiquities Minister
12. Khawla al-Shakhsheer – [a woman] – Education and Higher Education Minister
13. Hayfa al-Agha – [a woman – and UPDATE: yes, she is from Gaza, and that’s why she was absent from the Muqata’a ceremony] – Women’s Affairs Minister

14. Jawad Awwad – Health Minister
15. Allam Moussa – Communications Minister + Transport Minister
16. Yusef Day’is – Minister of Awqaf [Islamic trusts foundation] + Religious Affairs
17. Nayef Abu Khalaf – Minister of Local Governance

Palestine TV aired what seemed to be a pre-recorded speech by Mahmoud Abbas, a few minutes after the swearing-in ceremony in the Muqata’a.

A little later, Palestine TV aired statements by Abbas + Hamdallah at initial meeting in Muqata’a of new Palestinian government [and announced that an Ismail Haniyeh statement was expected…] Abbas spoke to the new cabinet about elections [presidential, Palestine Legislative Council + also, for the 1st time ever, for the PLO’s Palestine National Council]; he also stressed the 1967 borders, which he stressed include East Jerusalem.

The new Palestinian government is supposed to prepare the way for long-delayed elections in which Hamas’ electoral strength will be tested + measured.

Earlier today, Haaretz’ Barak Ravid reported that, “barring a last minute dispute”, a new Palestinian government will be sworn in today + Israel’s Security Cabinet will meet afterward…

Ravid reported herethat “Abbas pressed for the swearing-in on assumption that any further delay wld lead to additional disputes” [w/Hamas, or others, on posts]

Continue reading Mahmoud Abbas puts together [+ pushes through] a new Palestinian Government