- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

TEL AVIV — Barely 100 days in office, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas faces domestic critics who say he is making reforms too slowly and has failed to create any palpable changes for the average Palestinians, officials and analysts said.

Mr. Abbas’ critics are pushing him to dismiss senior figures in his Fatah party with reputations for corruption.

At the same time, they concede that the new president has inherited an unwieldy party from Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in November, and that the task of streamlining Fatah can’t be completed overnight.

“There are good intentions by Mr. Abu Mazen of doing reforms,” said Hassan Khreisheh, a Palestinian legislator who referred to Mr. Abbas by his nickname.

“These reforms are going along smoothly but slowly. We want these reforms to go along, but with faster steps. There is a challenge of time. If he does it slowly, the corrupt people will gain, and it will be a danger for Abu Mazen himself.”

Mr. Khreisheh last week published an opinion article in the London Arabic daily Al Quds Al Arabi that criticized Mr. Abbas for not dismissing more Palestinian security commanders.

Mr. Abbas on Thursday ordered the Palestinian security services to come under the authority of three main institutions — a step toward meeting a key demand for reform.

The United States and Israel have long demanded the unification of the Palestinian security services as a condition for renewing peace negotiations.

More than a dozen Palestinian security organizations have long operated as independent fiefdoms, thus contributing to rising lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Abbas — who was sworn in as president of the Palestinian Authority on Jan. 15 — postponed plans last week to visit President Bush in Washington to continue working on security-related reforms.

Palestinians are also urging their new president to provide a sense of law and order.

Earlier this month, a group of gunmen went on a shooting spree through Ramallah targeting Mr. Abbas’ headquarters and several restaurants.

“I don’t think Abu Mazen will ever succeed in appeasing all the existing sides within the establishment. This is what he was trying to do. He was trying to handle things in a wise, ‘slowly-slowly’ manner,” said Salah Haider Shafi, a political analyst.

“Now he is realizing that this is not working. There are heads that have to be chopped off, and without that nothing is going to happen.”

Progress in relations with Israel has also been slow going. With Israel unsatisfied with Palestinian efforts to rein in militants, army checkpoints have been left in place and the public in the West Bank still feels hemmed in.

“Abu Mazen doesn’t have a magical solution to this difficult inheritance. It’s a process,” said another analyst, Kadoura Fares. “It may be that our aspiration is to go very fast. But the person who enters into the shoes of Abu Mazen reaches the conclusion that you have to go slowly.”

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