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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
Analysis: Palestinian cabinet reshuffle
Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian cabinet
Reforms promise a more manageable cabinet
Jonny Dymond,  BBC reporter

In any other place, it would be a major shake-up - 11 cabinet positions swept away and new finance minister, a new man in charge of the interior ministry, a new justice minister and a new education minister.


Whatever they do, there is only one man that's at the helm, Arafat

Israeli Government spokesman

There's been anger amongst some for many years about the way the Palestinian Authority (PA) operated: too much power concentrated in too few hands, especially those close to Yasser Arafat; too little legislative oversight; too much money unaccounted for while the population lived in poverty.

All that was forgotten as Israel's military machine occupied the West Bank during Operation Defensive Shield. While Yasser Arafat was besieged in his Ramallah compound, it was not the time to start discussing reform of the administration.

But once he was out and about the calls for reform came quickly - from Palestinians, from the US and the from the rest of the world.

Security forces

The problem is quite what is meant by reform. For many Palestinians it means a more accountable government, fresh elections and a less corrupt administration.

For the Americans and much of the rest of the outside world, the "clean government" reforms are important, but it is changes to the makeup of the Palestinian security forces that are crucial.

Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister
Sharon is unlikely to be won over by these proposals
They need those reforms to remove some of the stumbling blocks to making some political progress.

However, as far as the Israeli Government is concerned, the reforms are nothing.

"If they want to reform that's nice", one government spokesman said, "It's not something that we initiated.

"Whatever they do, there is only one man that's at the helm, Arafat.

"What do we care how many security services they have if it doesn't lead to the end of terror?"

For those who like to believe the glass is half full there are bright points to the reforms.

The security forces, all 12 of them, will be streamlined.

The interior ministry, which controls the security services and has been the personal fiefdom of Mr Arafat, will now be run by the former Palestinian negotiator, General Abdel Razak El Yehiye.

And some of the financial mismanagement that has been so well documented over the years may be cleared up by the appointment of the respected banker Salem Fayad to the post of Minister of Finance.

Elections

As he announced the new appointments and restructuring, the Minister for Information, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said that the main task of the new Cabinet would be to rebuild and to prepare for forthcoming elections.

Municipal elections will be held in a few months time, while local and presidential elections will follow early next year.

But old habits die hard.

These reforms are actually in the hands of the Palestinian Legislative Council. It is that body which will have to agree to them before they are enacted.

So, the minister for information was asked, had they agreed? Not yet, he said.

In fact, they hadn't been consulted. But that looks like a formality, at least to the Palestinian leadership - the new Cabinet will meet on Monday evening.


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09 Jun 02 | Middle East
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