update deskIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Amid US pressure, PA announces administrative reforms

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh did not say whether Ramallah would end its "pay-for-slay" policy.

Mohammed Shtayyeh (left) accepts the position of prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas. Shtayyeh took office on April 14, 2019. Credit: JCPA.
Mohammed Shtayyeh (left) accepts the position of prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas. Shtayyeh took office on April 14, 2019. Credit: JCPA.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced a series of administrative reforms on Monday aimed at reducing widespread corruption and improving ties with the United States.

“Today we announce the launch of the new phase of implementing this program in the judicial, security, administrative and financial structures,” Shtayyeh said following a P.A. Cabinet meeting in the Samaria city of Ramallah, according to the Emirati newspaper The National.

The reforms, said to have been coordinated with P.A. chief Mahmoud Abbas, are aimed at “implementing the law and addressing the duration of litigation in the courts, and continuing the dialogue with the union and relevant authorities about approving the assistance system for those in need,” Shtayyeh claimed.

“The program includes several core ministries, addressing the government debt, outstanding water and electricity bills, which Israel deducts from the clearance tax funds, and restructuring some of the services the government provides to citizens,” he added.

As part of the purported reforms, Abbas will ultimately appoint 12 new permanent regional P.A. governors in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip after he moved to dismiss all but four of them from their posts over the summer, Haaretz reported.

In addition, commanders and other senior officials in the P.A.’s security forces will be pushed into retirement to make place for new blood, the newspaper said.

Shtayyeh and P.A. Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki met with representatives of European countries on Monday and briefed them on the reform plans, the P.A.’s official Wafa news agency reported.

According to senior P.A. officials cited by Haaretz, the changes were demanded by the Biden administration during recent talks on the future of Gaza. The reforms will reportedly be applied in stages, culminating in presidential and parliamentary elections.

Shtayyeh did not indicate whether the P.A. would end its “pay-for-slay” policy, under which it pays monthly stipends to convicted terrorists, released security prisoners and the families of those killed while trying to murder Jews.

Palestinian officials have repeatedly stressed they will never stop the payments, with Abbas saying in 2018 that if Ramallah had only “a single penny left, we would pay it to families of the martyrs and prisoners.”

Washington wants Ramallah to take control of Gaza after the war against Hamas ends, a move that Israel vehemently rejects because of Ramallah’s overt support for terrorism.

On Jan. 27, Abbas’s spokesman told Al Arabiya that the P.A. is prepared to hand over the reins to Hamas after the conflict. Ramallah is “prepared to hold general elections, and if Hamas wins, the president will hand over the [Palestinian] Authority,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has insisted that an “effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority” should ultimately govern the Strip.

During a Jan. 10 meeting in Ramallah, Blinken pressed Abbas on “administrative reforms, which, if implemented, would benefit the Palestinian people.” Sky News Arabia described the tête-à-tête as “tense” and marked by “arguments.”

Responding to the demand that Abbas reform the P.A. leadership and its security forces, Palestinian officials reportedly told America’s top diplomat, “You should reform yourselves and your policy towards the Palestinian issue.”

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