Who is Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala)?
The former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qurei, is a prominent figure in Middle East politics since 1970s. Widely known as Abu Ala, he was a special apprentice of PLO leader Yasser Arafat and served as a speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He has been an active member of the PLO inner circle for a long time and thus considered an important authority on Palestine affairs by the West.
Qurei opened his eyes in an affluent merchant family of Jerusalem in 1937. He was born in the neighborhood of Abu Dis and presently lives there with his family of five children. Qurei joined Palestine Liberation Organization in its Fatah wing near the end of 1960s; however, he did not rise to prominence before the mid-70s. He started being recognized within the PLO with his taking up of the economic control in Lebanon. Excerpt from a BBC article said, “By 1980, the PLO’s business enterprises generated an income of about $40m a year and, with 6,500 full-time employees, ranked as one of the largest employers in Lebanon.” Qurei went to Tunis along with Arafat at the expulsion of PLO from Lebanon in 1983. Abu Ala continued to grow within PLO gradually as he was among the few members who survived the test of times while others couldn’t. Continuing his progression, he became a member of Fatah central committee through an election in 1989. Qurei returned to Gaza in 1994, again, along with Arafat and was an active participant of the Oslo Peace Process which started during the 90s. His role in the peace process was concentrated upon economic planning, as he was a vocal advocate of economic reforms. While Qurei was generally viewed as merely a moderator in the peace process, later statements indicated that he had some strong views on many other issues regarding Palestine. One of the major issues that he raised his voice on was about the inclusion of Western Jerusalem and some other Jewish areas in the negotiations so that a fair decision can be made in this regard. He is also a member who is still working upon the assertion to Israel regarding the Palestinian Arab ‘right of return’. Just like any other PLO leader would, Qurei has also participated in demonstrations against Jews and Israeli occupation and injustices. In many aspects, Ahmed Qurei was Arafat’s wing man and worked shoulder to shoulder with him to find a solution of Palestine issue. Elections for Palestine’s first parliament were held in January 1996 where Qurei was elected in Palestinian Legislative Council consisting of 88 members, as a speaker. He held this office until 2003. Ahmed Qurei was also appointed a replacement as the Palestinian Prime Minister when Mahmoud Abbas resigned from the position in September 2003.