Lingering PA cabinet calls for halt to settlements 25Apr11 April 27, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  25 April 2011

Palestinian Authority ministers convened for a weekly meeting in Ramallah Monday, despite President Mahmoud Abbas’ announcement seven days prior that a new cabinet would be appointed within the week.

Headed by West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who was re-appointed by the president when the cabinet was formally dissolved on February 14, caretaker ministers slammed Israel’s settlement activity in Jerusalem, and ongoing excavations at the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque in the city.

In a statement released after the meeting, PA ministers said “Continuation of settlement expansion and other Israeli policies is in violation of international law and will eventually finish the international efforts that are trying to launch a serious political process which could bring occupation to an end,” referring to the Israeli government’s recent approval of 800 new settler homes in Givat Zeev, northwest Jerusalem, and 900 in Gilo, to the south of the city.

Cabinet members also highlighted the seizure of 27 Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah last week, and continuing archeological digs under the compound housing Al-Aqsa, holy to Muslims. This work, the cabinet said, weakened the foundations of the site and could endanger the structures above.

Members of the caretaker government announced a decision to ask the Supreme Court to order West Bank health sector employees back to work, after a strike which ministers called “very harmful to Palestinian citizens.” They said the government could continue to encourage dialogue with the unions, and appointed a committee, headed by the acting Minister of Labor, to follow up the union’s demands and seek a compromise.

The cabinet wished all Christians in Palestine and across the world a happy Easter, the statement said, expressing the hope that next year Easter will be celebrated in East Jerusalem, after becoming the capital of the Palestinian state.

They also sent greetings to laborers in Palestine and across the world, on the occasion of May Day. Ministers declared Sunday an official holiday.

Following the Ramallah-based government’s resignation in February, Fayyad was tasked by the president to reform the cabinet, originally within five weeks. Two months later, Abbas said last Monday that new ministers would be announced within the week.

A Fatah official added the following day that the appointments would take place on the president’s return from a trip to Europe. Abbas had returned Monday, but the caretaker government remained in the seat of power.

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