US welcomes new Palestinian Authority government following repeated calls for reform

State Department says ‘revitalized PA is essential to delivering results for the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Gaza’

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)
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)

The United States has welcomed the formation of a new Palestinian Authority government, signaling it is accepting the revised cabinet lineup as a step toward political reform.

The Biden administration has called for “revitalizing” the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in hopes that it can also administer the Gaza Strip once the Israel-Hamas war ends. The war erupted nearly six months ago, triggered by the devastating October 7 attack by the Gaza-based terror group.

In a statement late Friday, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the United States looks forward to working with the new group of ministers “to deliver on credible reforms.”

“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,” Miller said.

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

The practice of paying allowances to those convicted of carrying out terror attacks and to the families of those killed while carrying out attacks — often referred to by some Israeli officials as a pay-to-slay policy — has been pilloried by critics as incentivizing terror. Palestinian leaders have long defended the payments, describing them as a form of social welfare.

US President Joe Biden (L) is received by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem in the West Bank on July 15, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The Palestinian Authority administers parts of the West Bank. It is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has not faced an election in almost two decades. Abbas will continue to oversee the new government, casting doubt on whether true reform is possible.

The United States sees the Palestinian Authority as a key part of its preferred plans for post-war Gaza, on a pathway to a two-state solution with Israel.

But the PA has little popular support or legitimacy among Palestinians, with many viewing it as a subcontractor to Israel because of its security cooperation in the West Bank.

Earlier this month, Abbas tapped Mohammad Mustafa, a US-educated economist, as prime minister, and on Thursday, Mustafa named his new lineup. It includes relatively unknown technocrats, but also Abbas’s interior minister and several members of the secular Fatah movement he leads.

Several of the ministers are from Gaza, but it’s not clear if they are currently living there.

The Islamic terror group Hamas, a rival of Abbas, drove his security forces from Gaza in a 2007 takeover. The United States wants a reformed Palestinian Authority to return and administer Gaza, an idea that has been rejected by both Israel and Hamas.

A major challenge for the Palestinian Authority, should it be given a role in administering Gaza, will be reconstruction.

Nearly six months of war has destroyed critical infrastructure including hospitals, schools and homes as well as roads, sewage systems and the electrical grid.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 32,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, of which the IDF says there are some 13,000.

Palestinians inspect the ruins of a residential building after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, March 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

The fighting has displaced over 80% of Gaza’s population and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine, the UN and international aid agencies say.

The war began after Hamas-led terrorists stormed across southern Israel on October 7 under the cover of thousands of rockets, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 hostages.

Israel has said it will maintain open-ended security control over Gaza and partner with Palestinians who are not affiliated with the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. It’s unclear who in Gaza would be willing to take on such a role.

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

Hamas has rejected the formation of the new Palestinian government as illegitimate, calling instead for all Palestinian factions, including Fatah, to form a power-sharing government ahead of national elections, which have not taken place in 18 years.

Most Popular
read more: