RAMALLAH Ñ The two top Palestinian leaders have issued conflicting orders in what has become a power struggle
backed by force.
PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has ordered the replacement of senior
officials appointed by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. In response, Arafat has
ordered the officials not to leave their posts.
The most bitter of the confrontations concerns the decision by Abbas to
replace the head of the PA Civil Service Department. Abbas ordered the
dismissal of Arafat loyalist Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Sharia in what was
regarded as an open challenge to the PA chairman, Middle East Newsline reported.
Over the weekend, Palestinian sources said, Arafat ordered Abu Sharia
not to leave his office. At the same time, Arafat sent scores of agents from
the ruling Fatah movement to block Abu Sharia's offices to prevent the entry
of Abbas appointee Saher Bseiso.
The Civil Service Department is regarded as the key source of
appointments for all senior officials in the PA. The department oversees the
hiring of more than 70,000 government employees, including director-generals
On Thursday, the Palestinian Legislative Council was expected to begin
hearings on a proposal to hold a vote of no-confidence in Abbas. The United
States has warned the 83 PLC members not to vote against Abbas, but
Palestinian sources said more than half of the Fatah-dominated council
supports a proposed no-confidence motion.
Another dispute between Abbas and Arafat regards the chairman's
appointment of Brig. Gen. Jibril Rajoub as PA national security adviser.
Abbas has viewed the appointment as seeking to undermine PA Security Affairs
Minister Mohammed Dahlan.
Several Palestinian legislators have proposed the establishment of a
five-member national security council. The council would be headed by Arafat
and include Abbas, Dahlan and Rajoub.
On Monday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily reported that the
United States has rejected an appeal from Arab allies for a high-level
meeting with Arafat. The newspaper said Arab allies of Washington had urged
the Bush administration to allow Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage
to secretly meet Arafat during his planned tour of the Middle East later