US: 'We welcome steps for PA to reform, revitalize itself'

Amid US pressure for reform, entire PA government submits its resignation to Abbas

PM Shtayyeh sends letter to Palestinian Authority president, says new ‘political arrangements’ required for postwar Gaza; Hamas: Must be national consensus

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh speaks during a meeting with officials from Western and Arab nations, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, November 9, 2023. (Ludovic Marin/AP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh speaks during a meeting with officials from Western and Arab nations, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, November 9, 2023. (Ludovic Marin/AP)

RAMALLAH — Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements after the conclusion of Israel’s war against terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The move comes amid growing US pressure on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Authority, which would allow it to take a greater role in ruling postwar Gaza.

International efforts have intensified to stop the fighting in Gaza and begin work on a political structure to govern the enclave after the war.

Shtayyeh said he put the resignation to Abbas last Tuesday and was now formalizing it in writing.

His resignation must still be accepted by Abbas, who may ask him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.

Abbas is expected to choose Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, as the next prime minister.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP)

The move signals a willingness by the Western-backed Palestinian leadership to accept changes that might usher in reforms seen as necessary to revitalize the PA, with the Biden administration hailing it as a “positive and important step toward achieving a reunited Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”

“Ultimately, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is a question for the Palestinians themselves to decide,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters Monday. “But we do welcome steps for the PA to reform and revitalize itself.”

The US wants a reformed PA to govern Gaza once the war is over and has ruled out Hamas playing any such role in the Strip in the future. But many obstacles remain to make that vision a reality.

In a statement to the cabinet, Shtayyeh, an academic economist who took office in 2019, said the next stage would need to take account of the emerging reality in Gaza, which has been laid waste by nearly five months of heavy fighting sparked by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught.

Shtayyeh said the next stage would “require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip, the national unity talks, and the urgent need for an inter-Palestinian consensus.”

In addition, it would require “the extension of the Authority’s authority over the entire land, Palestine.”

The Palestinian Authority was formed 30 years ago under the interim Oslo Peace Accords. It exercises limited governance over parts of the West Bank but lost power in Gaza following a bloody coup by Hamas in 2007.

Illustrative: Palestinian Authority security officers deploy near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank, on July 15, 2022. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Fatah, the faction that controls the West Bank-based PA, and Hamas have made repeated unsuccessful efforts to reach an agreement over a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday.

A senior Hamas official said the move had to be followed by a broader agreement on governance for the Palestinians.

“The resignation of Shtayyeh’s government only makes sense if it comes within the context of national consensus on arrangements for the next phase,” said senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and says that for security reasons, it will not accept Palestinian Authority rule over Gaza after the war, which broke out following a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7 in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 253 people of all ages who were taken as hostages to the Strip.

Israel responded to the attack with a military campaign to topple Hamas from control over Gaza, eliminate the terror group, and free the hostages, over half of whom remain in captivity.

Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the security cabinet with a document of principles regarding the management of Gaza after the war aiming to install “local officials” unaffiliated with terrorism to administer services in the Strip instead of Hamas.

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 24, 2024. (Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

For over four months, Netanyahu held off holding security cabinet discussions regarding the so-called “day after” the war, fearing this could lead to fractures in his mainly right-wing coalition. Some of his far-right ministers aim to use such meetings to push for the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in Gaza and the permanent Israeli control of the Strip — policies the premier says he opposes and would surely lead to the dissipation of Israel’s remaining support in the West.

Netanyahu himself has sufficed with saying that he will not allow the Palestinian Authority to return to govern Gaza. He has sometimes qualified this assertion by saying that Israel won’t allow the PA in its current form to return to the Palestinian enclave, indicating that Israel could live with a reformed PA of the kind that the Biden administration has been pushing. Other times, though, Netanyahu has given a more blanket rejection of allowing Gaza to become “Fatahstan” — referring to the political party headed by Abbas.

Shtayyeh has previously said that Israel’s goal of eradicating Hamas from Gaza cannot be achieved because the terror group exists as an “idea” and many of its top leaders and members aren’t even in the Gaza Strip.

His resignation came as efforts to negotiate a temporary ceasefire and hostage release deal were reportedly creeping forward while Israel was poised to launch a ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the last remaining stronghold of Hamas’s military but also an area where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to amid the fighting, raising international concerns that the coming military operation could have an intolerable civilian cost.

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