Mahmoud Abbas swears in new Palestinian cabinet

Arab World Materials 16 May 2012 23:33 (UTC +04:00)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new cabinet late Wednesday, the third caretaker government since the 2007 de facto West Bank-Gaza split, DPA reported.

Contrary to a February compromise with the radical Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza, Abbas did not assume the role of prime minister, in addition to that of president.

Instead, Acting Prime Minister Salam Fayyad remained in his post.

Fayyad gave up the Finance Ministry to Nabil Qassis, a Christian and former president of the West Bank's Birzeit University. Fayyad, an internationally respected economist, had held that portfolio almost uninterruptedly since 2003.

Twenty-four ministers took the oath, nine of whom are new, while 15 others kept their old portfolios.

In June 2007, Hamas seized sole control of Gaza by attacking Abbas' security forces, dominated by his secular Fatah movement. The government's power is therefore effectively limited to the West Bank.

But the parties have tried in vain to reunite the two territories.

They signed an Egyptian-mediated reconciliation deal in May last year, but have since bickered about who should lead the interim unity government, which was to prepare for long-overdue Palestinian elections. The poll should have taken place earlier this month.

Hamas had rejected Fayyad, whose renomination Wednesday is a sign of the ongoing internal Palestinian stalemate.

Local observers have said that both sides do not appear truly interested in a reunification. Hamas seems reluctant to give up sole power in Gaza and Abbas wary of jeopardizing his relations with the West by joining forces with the Islamists.