Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Palestinian factions continue to jockey for power

Hamas and the outgoing Fatah led Palestinian government continue to joust with each other for control of the Palestinian Authority. And it's gotten serious.

In a surprise move, Abbas took advantage of the last day of his own Fatah majority Monday, Feb. 13, to push through a series of laws which incoming Hamas deputies described as “illegal measures.”

The measures are designed to weaken the authority of the Hamas-ruled government and parliament and increase the powers of the presidency:

1. A constitutional court of nine judges, all Abbas loyalists was established. It is supposed to arbitrate in disputes over the distribution of powers among the president, government and legislature and can may disqualify basic laws, dissolve parliament and call new elections.

2. The outgoing parliament created the appointments of civil service commissioner, state controller, state prosecutor and parliamentary secretariat. Abbas' Fatah allys were named to fill the new posts.

3. A new Palestinian broadcasting service was created under direct control of the president (instead of the information minister) in a move to take control of the press away from Hamas.

4. The outgoing deputies are automatically appointed to the Palestinian National Council, the ruling body of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the umbrella organization which signed all former accords with Israel. Hamas wants admission to the PLO, Abbas has set things up so that Hamas will not gain control over the PNC...at least for now.

Hamas promised to annul these measures when its 74 members take their seats for the first time in the new house next Saturday, and as you can imagine, they are not too pleased with Abbas just now.

Abbas obviously got some assurances of help from somewhere...Washington,perhaps?

At least that's what's being intimated by the New York Times and elsewhere. In reality, Abbas was slated to be eased out in a few months anyway, as his usefulness as a frnt and fundraiser is just about over and Hamas has made arrangements of its own.

I expect a violent confrontation between Abu Mazen’s Fatah and Hamas, with Abbas a prime target. I gave him six months..either I was over-optimistic or I underestimated him, and only the events of the next few weeks will tell.

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