Qurai, Ahmad Sulayman (Abu Ala)

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Palestinian political figure, born in 1937 at Abu Dis, in the suburbs of Jerusalem. An economist by education, at the time of the 1967 War, Ahmad Qurai was working for the Arab Bank in Saudi Arabia. The following year he joined Yasir Arafat's al-Fatah. In 1970 he was chosen to organize the Palestinian Martyrs' Works Society (SAMED), a set of business enterprises run from Beirut by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for the economic support of the Palestinian community in exile. It operated in most Palestinian communities in the Middle East outside the occupied territories and has been dormant since the founding of the Palestinian Authority (Qurai is still its head).

In August, 1987, Qurai was elected to the Central Committee of Fatah, and the following year he was chosen to be general director of the economics department of the PLO. In the framework of the Madrid peace process, launched in 1991, he participated in multilateral negotiations. With Mahmud Rida Abbas (Abu Mazen), he participated in secret negotiations with the Israelis, which resulted in the Oslo Accords of 1993. In February 1996, he was elected president of the new Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), of the Palestinian Authority parliament. While carrying on his duties as the president of the Legislative Council, Ahmad Qurai also participated in the principal Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. On 5 September 2000, along with his counterpart in Israel, Knesset president Avraham Burg, he was invited to speak before the European Parliament on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Between September and December 2001, while the al-Aqsa Intifada was continuing in the Palestinian territories, Qurai met several times with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres and European envoys Miguel Moratinos and Javier Solana, in an attempt to restart negotiations. On 23 January 2002, when the Intifada and Israeli reprisals were intensifying, Qurai went to Paris to participate in a colloquium organized by the French National Assembly, in which Burg and Moratinos also participated. During this meeting Qurai invited Burg to speak before the PLC, and Burg agreed. In a speech commenting on the seriousness of the situation in the Palestinian territories, Qurai appealed to the international community—and to the European Union in particular—to become more involved in the process. On the fringes of this meeting, Qurai met also with Peres, with whom he discussed various ways of restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In September 2003, Qurai was appointed prime minister in Arafat's Palestinian Authority government, replacing Mahmud Abbas. In mid-July 2004, as frustration grew not only with the Israeli occupation, but with the corruption and inaction of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO's old-guard leadership, and conditions in the Gaza Strip verged on chaos, Qurai offered his resignation, which Arafat refused. Qurai withdrew his resignation about a week later. Qurai, as prime minister of the PNA, is a possible successor to Arafat, but has been considered to be ineffective and corrupt, and does not command the level of support that would see him through the expected political struggle that would likely follow Arafat's demise.

SEE ALSO Abbas, Mahmud Rida;Aqsa Intifada, al-;Arafat, Yasir;Burg, Avraham;Fatah, al-;Oslo Accords;Palestine Liberation Organization;Palestinian Authority;Palestinian Legislative Council;Peres, Shimon.