Jerusalem, May 17 – Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas appointed nine new cabinet ministers, but appears to be no closer to either returning to peace talks with Israel or achieving a reconciliation deal with rival Hamas.
The biggest move was the appointment of a political independent, former university president Nabil Qassis, to the finance portfolio relieving Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who had held both positions and remains as prime minister.
The Iran-backed Hamas terrorist group, which rejects the peace process with Israel, condemned the cabinet appointments, saying the move “reflects an insistence on misconduct and maintenance of illegitimacy and disagreement,” the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
Both the peace process and Palestinian politics have been stymied by the 2006 election results in which Hamas won a majority. The following year Hamas staged a military coup and seized power in Gaza from Abbas’ Fatah party. An Associated Press report said the cabinet shuffle was “a clear sign that efforts to end the Palestinian political split are stuck.”
Despite reaching a reconciliation agreement on paper last year, Abbas has failed to form a unity government with Hamas. The Palestinian leader has also rebuffed repeated calls by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume direct peace talks without preconditions.
Israel’s Ma'ariv newspaper commented on the peace process with the Palestinians, saying the Israeli media is too uncritical of Palestinian Authority President Abbas' “continuing refusal to enter into any kind of dialogue.” The editorial went on to say that “Netanyahu needs to be a little flexible but, at the same time, Abbas also needs to be flexible," and warned that “as long as we do not criticize Abbas’ refusal, we are – in effect – encouraging him to dig in rather than compromise.”