update deskIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Abbas green-lights new Palestinian Authority government

In addition to prime minister Mohammad Mustafa, the cabinet will include 22 other ministers, most of them new faces.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah, May 25, 2021. Credit: Flash90.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ramallah, May 25, 2021. Credit: Flash90.

The new Palestinian Authority government under the leadership of incoming Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa will be sworn in on Sunday, the Wafa press agency reported on Thursday.

P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas signed off on the decree approving Mustafa’s cabinet and work program ahead of the inauguration set to take place at the government complex in Ramallah, Wafa said.

Former P.A. Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted his resignation along with that of his government on Feb. 26. Shtayyeh said new “arrangements” were needed to take account of the “emerging reality in the Gaza Strip.”

In addition to Mustafa, who will also hold the Foreign Ministry portfolio, the cabinet will include 22 other ministers, most of them new faces. Only Interior Minister Ziad Hab al-Reeh, a member of Mustafa’s Fatah movement, will keep his position.

Ashraf al-Awar, the incoming minister for Jerusalem affairs, was set to run with Fatah in the indefinitely postponed 2021 P.A. elections. He was briefly detained by Israel at the time for illegal political activities.

While some of the incoming ministers were born in the Gaza Strip, it remained unclear if they are currently in the coastal enclave, where the Hamas terrorist organization seized control from the P.A. in 2007. Last week, Mustafa vowed to appoint a cabinet that can “gain both the trust of our people and the support of the international community.”

In a vision statement seen by the Associated Press, Mustafa promised to reunify Gaza with Judea and Samaria and establish an “internationally managed trust fund” to rebuild the Strip after the Israel Defense Forces operation against Hamas there ends.

Mustafa claimed Ramallah aims to enact wide-ranging administrative reforms and hold its first election since 2006. However, he did not provide a timetable for the vote, saying it would depend on “realities on the ground” in Gaza, Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

The mission statement also made no mention of Hamas, which has the support of the majority of Palestinians but is blacklisted as a terrorist group by most Western countries.

According to a recent poll, 89% of Palestinians support establishing a governing body that includes or is led by Hamas. Only around 8.5% said they favor the status quo, under which the Western-backed P.A. is controlled by Mustafa’s Fatah faction, without the participation of Hamas.

A separate survey found that most Palestinians believe Hamas is “the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people.”

Fatah and Hamas have been engaged in unity talks geared towards forming a political alliance. Yet the latter terrorist group stressed that the decision to appoint Mustafa was made “without national consensus.”

Mustafa was born in the village of Kafr Sur, near Tulkarem in western Samaria, and holds a Ph.D. in business administration and economics from George Washington University. A longtime member of Fatah, he sits on the Executive Committee of the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization.

In 2015, Abbas appointed Mustafa as chair of the P.A.’s billion-dollar Palestine Investment Fund. A year earlier, as Ramallah’s minister of economy, he oversaw the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s 2014 military operation against Hamas (“Protective Edge”).

The Biden administration wants the P.A. to assume control of Gaza after Israel’s military operation ends—a move that Jerusalem vehemently rejects because of Ramallah’s overt support for terrorism.

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