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Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Low expectations for new Palestinian government

sorry, I couldn't resist.
JERUSALEM, Nov. 12 (JTA) — Ahmed Qurei pledged to stand tough. He pledged to insist that his man control the Palestinian Authority´s myriad security services.

But when all was said and done, the 26-member government that the P.A. prime minister put together left P.A. President Yasser Arafat firmly in control of the security services — much to the chagrin of Israel and the United States, who fear Arafat will continue to foil moves to end violence and make peace.

The Palestinian legislative council approved the Cabinet on Wednesday.

In an address to the council, Qurei urged the lawmakers to seek an end to armed "chaos" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of efforts to put peacemaking with Israel back on track.

"It is not acceptable to any of us to see the chaos of weapons and shelling among the public," Qurei said. But the one who should be proudest is Arafat: Despite all the obstacles, he proved once again that no one can challenge his near-absolute rule in the Palestinian Authority.

Qurei had threatened to quit if his favorite, Nasser Youssef, wasn´t appointed interior minister and given extensive powers over security.

But Arafat vetoed Youssef´s appointment. In the end, the new interior minister will be Hakam Balawi, a PLO veteran and Arafat favorite who is not expected to take serious steps to crack down on terrorism and impose order on the Palestinians´ chaos of security services and armed militias.

In addition, the security organs are subordinate to the national security council. And who chairs that council? Again, Arafat.

Arafat spoke to the Parliament on Wednesday before Qurei.

"We do not deny the right of Israelis to live in security alongside the Palestinian people in their own independent state. Let us end the cycle of fighting," Arafat said in an address that dwelled on Israeli military crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but made no mention of Palestinian terrorism.

Dore Gold, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, rejected the call as insincere.

"You can´t hold an olive branch in one hand and a ticking bomb in the other," Gold said.

However, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that if Qurei is serious about cracking down on terrorism, he would find an Israeli partner willing to move forward toward peace.