Palestinian Authority announces a new Cabinet as it faces calls for reform


RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — 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 U.S.-educated economist, had 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-Rih is a member of Abbas’ 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, registered to run as a Fatah candidate in elections in 2021 that were indefinitely delayed.

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

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

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 the occupation.

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, saying 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 will be treated as a collaborator, which is understood as a death threat.

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