Palestinians chose professionals over Arafat cronies

NY Times:

The Palestinian parliament overwhelmingly approved a new cabinet on Thursday, composed mainly of professionals rather than politicians, ending days of crisis and marking a break with the Yasir Arafat era.

All but 7 of the 24 cabinet members were newcomers, many of them qualified specialists with doctorates in fields ranging from education to electrical engineering and economics.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and the deputy prime minister, Nabil Shaath, formerly the foreign minister, were among the few who survived a radical pruning of Arafat loyalists that strengthened the reform-minded President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Abbas has pledged to make Palestinian public life more open and effective, reinforcing efforts to secure peace with Israel.

"The majority are new," Mr. Shaath told reporters as newly-endorsed ministers, legislators and journalists milled around the courtyard of the parliament, located in a former school here. "Rejuvenation is the name of the game." Saeb Erakat, another Arafat associate who withdrew from the cabinet earlier this week, said: "What you witnessed is the real democracy of the Palestinian people."

The outcome reflected a setback for Mr. Qurei, who had started the week by proposing a cabinet list drawn predominantly from the old guard that flourished under Mr. Arafat and was widely seen as corrupt and nepotistic. Legislators protested vehemently, forcing Mr. Qurei during three days of wrangling to include new faces.

Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent legislator, told reporters the creation of the new cabinet was "a turning point" in the creation of Palestinian governments "going beyond political patronage."

It appears the legislators are not going to rubber stamp the same bad choices. Erakat has always struck me as dishonest in his defense of the undefensible.

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