What We Know So Far About a New Palestinian Government

What We Know So Far About a New Palestinian Government

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and his government tendered their resignations to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, in what many observers regard as the first step towards forming a new technocratic Palestinian administration to govern the Palestinian territories and to oversee the reconstruction of Gaza after Israel’s war to root out Hamas from the besieged enclave comes to an end.

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“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide, and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” Shtayyeh said in his announcement, noting that “the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine.”

President Abbas, who leads the Palestinian Authority which administers certain parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is expected to accept the resignations and appoint a new government. Until then, Shtayyeh’s government will govern in a caretaker capacity.

Below, what we know so far about the new government.

What is driving this shakeup?

The resignation of Shtayyeh and his government constitutes “a complete cabinet reshuffle,” Tahani Mustafa, a senior Palestine Analyst at the International Crisis Group, tells TIME—one that she says can be read as an attempt to appease calls by the U.S. and others for the creation of a “revitalized Palestinian Authority,” under which Gaza and the West Bank can be reunited under a single governance structure after the war.

Among those tipped for inclusion in this new technocratic government is Mohammad Mustafa, a former World Bank official and chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, who Abbas is expected to appoint as prime minister, according to multiple news outlets. Widely regarded as an independent technocrat, Mustafa previously served as economy minister and deputy prime minister, during which time he was involved in the reconstruction of Gaza following the 2014 war. In January, Mustafa led the Palestinian delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he told attendees that “the best way forward for all of us—including the Israelis—is statehood for Palestinians, peace for everybody, security for everybody. The faster we can move to this, the better.”

The PA, which was created 30 years ago as an interim government following the Oslo peace accords, currently exercises limited governance over parts of the occupied West Bank and no governance over Gaza, which it was expelled from by the Islamist group Hamas following the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections. While a reformed PA is the preferred choice of the U.S. and others to govern the West Bank and Gaza as part of a renewed push for a two-state solution to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the governing body enjoys little popularity among Palestinians, many of whom regard it as a subcontractor of Israel’s punishing military occupation. Indeed, a December poll conducted by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that nearly 60% of respondents in the West Bank and Gaza support the PA’s dissolution—the highest percentage ever recorded in PSR polls. Demand for Abbas’s resignation is even higher, at around 90%.

Is Hamas expected to have a role in the new government?

The new technocratic government is expected to be made up of independent figures who are not affiliated with any Palestinian factions, including Hamas. As such, the International Crisis Group’s Mustafa says, the formation of the new government will not have been determined by the militant group, nor will it involve any of its members.

“The international community have made it very clear that they will not engage in any kind of high-level diplomacy with Hamas,” Mustafa says, “so the idea of having them involved in any kind of government is just not even a workable proposition right now.” However, Mustafa adds that there is an expectation that former Hamas civil servants in Gaza will invariably be involved in the day-to-day governance of the Strip, on the condition that those individuals have no involvement in Hamas’s military wing.

What has the Israeli response been?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the prospect of the Palestinian Authority having any role in Gaza after the war. Instead, he has offered up his own vision for the so-called “day after” the war, which proposes Israel maintaining indefinite control over the West Bank and Gaza, thus neutering the possibility of the establishment of a Palestinian state (which the Israeli government also rejects).

“Israel is sending a very clear signal here that Palestinian autonomy—nevermind self-determination—is simply out of the question,” Mustafa says.

What will the short-term impact of a new government be?

The current Palestinian government has overseen a period of immense instability in the West Bank, including rising Israeli settler violence and an economic crisis—one that has been exacerbated by the war as well as the Israeli government’s decision to withhold Palestinian tax revenues, which represent a major source of the PA’s income.

“Doing the bare minimum like providing education, employment, et cetera has been impossible,” says Mustafa. “A change of personnel in the PA doesn’t get rid of those obstacles.”

Will there be new elections?

Elections haven’t been held in the occupied Palestinian territories in nearly two decades. The last time Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza cast a vote was in 2006, when the Islamist group Hamas beat the secular movement Fatah in Legislative Council Elections, ultimately resulting in the latter’s expulsion from the Strip. Since then, administrative control of the Palestinian territories has been split between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, where Abbas has ruled by presidential decree since winning his first four-year term in 2005. No subsequent presidential contests have been held since.

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