QUREI, Ahmed (Abu Ala)

Ahmed Qurei, better known as Abu Ala, was born in Abu Dis (near Jerusalem) in 1937. An early member of Fatah, he was appointed at the head of the Economic Department of the Executive Committee of the PLO in 1983. He supervized the preparation of the « Programme for Development of the Palestinian National Economy (1994-2000) », a central document in the PLO development strategy for the Palestinian territories.

He was member of the cell in charge of the contacts during the Madrid Conference between the « external » PLO and the official Palestinian delegation. Chief of the Palestinian delegation to the secret negotiations which led to the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Agreement) in September 1993, he then headed the negotiations which led to the signing of the Paris Agreement (on the economic relations between the autonomous Palestinian territories and Israel) in April 1994 and to the conclusion of the pivotal Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Taba Agreement or Oslo II) in September 1995. He now runs the Palestinian side of the steering committee in charge of its implementation (See Oslo peace process).

Specialist on financial and economic matters, he has also been since the creation of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR), in 1993, its delegated Managing Director and, in reality, its pillar. Minister of Economy and Trade and Minister of Industry in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) between 1994 and 1996, he was elected in Jerusalem in the elections of January 1996 as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) of which he was the Speaker during years.

Ahmad Qurei was appointed as Prime Minister upon the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas on the 7th of September 2003, caused by a power struggle with Arafat and the absence of progress regarding the peace process. He was nominated head of a new emergency cabinet of eight members by Yasser Arafat on the 5th of October 2003. Following his nomination, he was engaged in a lengthy dispute with Mr. Arafat over who should take over the key Interior Ministry post, and even threatened to resign. Shortly after, he accepted to lead the emergency cabinet until end of October, without Interior Minister. He then accepted to be in charge of an enlarged government as from the beginning of November 2003, and reached a compromise with Arafat over its structure. The key post of the Interior was given to Hakam Balawi, whose prerogatives are limited to the civil domain. Security affairs remain in the hands of the National Security Council, presided by Arafat and in which Qorei has a seat.

Ahmad Qurei benefits from the support of the US and the EU, as long as he is committed to dealing with security issues. He has promised to focus on such issues, under pressure from Israel and the US to fight armed Palestinian factions. A meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was scheduled for mid-March, but was subsequently cancelled due to a double suicide attack in Israel, which left 10 Israelis killed.

Qurei is viewed as a moderate and pragmatic man, politically close to Yasser Arafat . If the question of succession of Yasser Arafat arises, he is “officially” (according to the Palestinian Authority’s draft Basic Law) the person designated to take over as President of the PNA.

Following Hamas victory in the parliamentary elections in January 2006, Ahmed Qorei announced his willingness to resign. Ismail Haniyeh succeeded him on March 29, 2006.

Following the Annapolis conference in November 2007, Ahmed Qorei is responsible for overseeing the negotiations with Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.