Thursday, April 25

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday named a longtime member of the authority’s top echelons as prime minister, rejecting international pressure to appoint an independent prime minister who could revitalize the sclerotic authority.

Abbas, 88, who has long ruled by decree, named Muhammad Mustafa, a close economic adviser, to take over as prime minister, signing a document tasking him with forming a new government, according to official Wafa. of the Palestinian Authority. Press Agency. Mr. Mustafa has three weeks to do so, but can take two more weeks if necessary, in accordance with Palestinian law.

Muhammad Mustafa in 2013.Credit…Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press

The document that Mr Abbas handed to Mr Mustafa says the government’s priorities should include leading efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, rebuilding what was destroyed during the war between Israel and Hamas, and the presentation of plans and mechanisms for reunification. Palestinian government structures in the West Bank and coastal enclave.

He also called for “continuing the reform process”.

Much of the Palestinian public views the Palestinian Authority as tainted by corruption, mismanagement and cooperation with Israel.

As president, Mr. Abbas remains firmly in control of the government. With a non-functional parliament, Mr. Abbas has long ruled by decree and has broad influence over the judiciary and prosecution. There have been no presidential elections in the Palestinian territories since 2005, nor legislative elections since 2006.

In late February, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted his cabinet’s resignation, citing the need for a new government that “takes into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip.” Mr. Shtayyeh’s government continued to play an interim role.

Hamas carried out a deadly attack from Gaza against Israel on October 7, and Israel responded with intense bombardment and an invasion, promising to break the group’s hold on the enclave. But these events have raised difficult questions about how Gaza will be governed and rebuilt after the war.

The Palestinian Authority has limited governing powers in the West Bank. It lost control of Gaza to Hamas during a power struggle in 2007.

The United States has in recent months called for an overhaul of the largely unpopular Palestinian Authority in hopes that it could eventually take the reins of governance in Gaza after the war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, rejected such a role for the authority.

Although the Biden administration has not told Mr. Abbas who to appoint as prime minister, he has indicated that he hopes for an independent figure who would be acceptable to ordinary Palestinians, the international community and Israel, according to Western diplomats. who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

A representative of the National Security Council, Adrienne Watson, said in a statement that the Biden administration welcomed the nomination and called for “the formation of a reform cabinet as soon as possible.”

In the Palestinian Authority, the prime minister is supposed to oversee the work of ministries, but Mr. Abbas often intervenes in decision-making, analysts say.

Nasser al-Qudwa, a former foreign minister whose name has been floated as a possible prime minister, said before Mr. Abbas’s election was announced that Mr. Mustafa’s appointment would represent “no real change.” .

“This would amount to replacing an employee named Mohammed with another employee named Muhammad, while Abbas continues to hold all the cards. What is the change? said Mr. Qudwa, a fierce opponent of Mr. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. “Abou Mazen wants to maintain the status quo. “He wants to keep all the power in his hands.”

In addition to being an adviser to Mr. Abbas, Mr. Mustafa, an economist trained at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was chairman of the Palestinian Investment Fund, whose board of directors is appointed by the president of authority. He was previously Minister of the Economy and Deputy Prime Minister of the authority.

For weeks, Mr. Abbas has signaled his desire to appoint Mr. Mustafa. In January, he attended Mr. Mustafa at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, where heads of state and foreign ministers meet to discuss world affairs.

At the conference, Mr. Mustafa said he believed the Palestinian Authority could improve its governance. “We don’t want to give excuses to anyone,” he said during a wide-ranging interview with Borge Brende, president of the forum. “The Palestinian Authority can do better in terms of building better institutions. »

In his new role, Mr. Mustafa will likely face enormous challenges, including trying to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip and improving the government’s credibility.

Some analysts, however, say judgment on a new government should be reserved until the public knows the identity of its ministers, as well as the degree of authority and independence they may have.

“We shouldn’t rush to say this will fail,” Ibrahim Dalalsha, director of the Horizon Center for Policy Studies and Media Outreach, a policy analysis group based in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “We have to wait and see how it works.”