At least 5 new ministers are Gaza-based

PA’s Abbas announces new cabinet, with little-known figures taking key roles

Interior minister from previous government retains position; incoming Jerusalem affairs minister Ashraf al-Awar ran as Fatah candidate in postponed 2021 elections

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) with Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Mustafa in Ramallah on March 14, 2024. (Wafa)
File: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) with Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Mustafa in Ramallah on March 14, 2024. (Wafa)

The Palestinian Authority has announced the formation of a new cabinet as it faces international pressure to reform.

President Mahmoud Abbas, who has led the PA for nearly two decades and remains in overall control, announced the new government in a presidential decree on Thursday. None of the incoming ministers is a well-known figure.

Abbas tapped Mohammad Mustafa, a longtime adviser, to be prime minister earlier this month. Mustafa, a politically independent US-educated economist, vowed to form a technocratic government and create an independent trust fund to help rebuild Gaza. Mustafa will also serve as foreign minister.

Interior Minister Ziad Hab al-Rieh is a member of Abbas’s secular Fatah movement and held the same portfolio in the previous government. The Interior Ministry oversees the security forces. The incoming minister for Jerusalem affairs, Ashraf al-Awar, had registered to run as a Fatah candidate in planned elections in 2021 that were canceled.

At least five of the incoming 23 ministers are from Gaza originally, but it was not immediately clear if they are still in the territory.

The PA administers parts of the West Bank. Its forces were driven from Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007, and it has no power there.

Illustrative: Palestinians wave the national flag during a demonstration in the city of Ramallah, in the West Bank on October 18, 2023. (YURI CORTEZ / AFP)

It has little popular support or legitimacy among Palestinians, in part because it has not held elections in 18 years. Its policy of cooperating with Israel on security matters is extremely unpopular and has led many Palestinians to view it as a subcontractor of military rule.

Opinion polls in recent years have consistently found that a vast majority of Palestinians want the 88-year-old Abbas to resign.

The United States has called for a revitalized PA to administer postwar Gaza ahead of eventual statehood.

Israel has rejected that idea, accusing it of failing to condemn Hamas’s attacks and encouraging terror through incitement in education and the payment of stipends to jailed and slain terrorists and their families. It says it will maintain open-ended security control over Gaza and partner with Palestinians who are not affiliated with the PA or Hamas. It’s unclear who in Gaza would be willing to take on such a role.

Hamas has rejected the formation of the new government as illegitimate, calling instead for all Palestinian factions, including Fatah, to form a power-sharing government ahead of national elections.

It has warned Palestinians in Gaza against cooperating with Israel to administer the territory, saying anyone who does so will be treated as a collaborator, which is understood as a death threat.

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