New Palestinian PM announces reform package for beleaguered Authority

Reform measures, amid Western pressure, largely match promises made by predecessor, including improving transparency, overhauling justice system and fixing education and health

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa speaking to journalists in the West Bank town of Tulkarem on April 22, 2024. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa speaking to journalists in the West Bank town of Tulkarem on April 22, 2024. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

RAMALLAH — Newly installed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa announced a package of reforms on Tuesday aimed at strengthening the Palestinian Authority amid increased global pressure for a revival of political dialogue with Israel.

Mustafa, appointed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year, said his government would introduce measures to improve transparency and fight corruption, overhaul the justice system and security sectors and improve public sector efficiency.

In addition, he said the health and education system would be improved, public finances strengthened and economic reforms implemented.

The reform pledges largely match promises previously made by his predecessor Mohammed Shtayyeh, who announced his resignation in February as the PA looked to build support for an expanded role amid Israel’s war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

The United States and other international partners have pressed the PA to implement sweeping reforms to restore confidence among Palestinians, who have become deeply disillusioned with the body set up under the interim Oslo Peace Accords more than 30 years ago.

“A revitalized PA is essential to delivering results for the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Gaza and establishing the conditions for stability in the broader region,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said when the move was announced at the end of March.

A handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority’s Press Office (PPO) shows Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, with the newly appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa, in Ramallah on March 14, 2024. (PPO/AFP)

In addition to the new cabinet, the PA was in the final stages of talks with the Biden administration about reforming its controversial welfare policy, which included payments to terrorists and their families, two sources familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel last month.

The urgency to make reforms has increased as attention has turned towards the governance of Gaza, once Israel completes its military campaign against Hamas. The war there began after the October 7 massacres in southern Israel, when 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took over 250 hostages.

Despite resistance from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Washington and its allies say the PA must be involved in administering the enclave once Israeli troops pull out.

Netanyahu has thus far rejected efforts to include the PA in post-war planning, arguing that the more moderate foil to Hamas, which publicly backs a two-state solution, is actually no different than the Gaza-ruling terror group in its refusal to accept a Jewish state and tacit support for terror.

However, some in the security establishment have argued that the PA represents Israel’s least bad option for who can manage Gaza after the war — the alternatives being Hamas or a state of anarchy, according to an Israeli official.

The US and most Western countries say only a two-state solution, entailing an independent Palestinian state next to Israel, can offer the chance of a peaceful resolution to decades of conflict.

Abbas reacted angrily last week when Washington vetoed a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership, saying the PA would reconsider bilateral ties with the US following the decision.

US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood votes against a resolution that would have recognized the Palestinians as a full UN member state, during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Abbas’s threat to the US, which he had previously made during US President Joe Biden’s tenure without following through, was published by the PA’s Wafa news agency

“While the world agrees on the application of international law and stands by the Palestinian right, America continues to support the occupation, refusing to compel Israel to stop its genocidal war,” Abbas was quoted as saying. “It provides Israel with weapons and funds that kill our children and destroy our homes, and it stands against us in international forums, in positions that do not serve security and stability in the region.”

The PA has been grappling with a severe financial crisis that has left most public sector employees receiving only part of their normal salary for the past two years.

The crisis has worsened since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, as Israel has cut off some of the tax revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf, accusing the Authority of supporting Hamas.

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