By Baruch Yedid
A new Palestinian Authority (PA) government, headed by Mohammad Ishtayeh was sworn-in on Saturday in Ramallah, in the presence of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.
The 22 member government includes 16 new ministers, of whom five are from Gaza, three are women, and a few are Christian.
Abbas asked Ishtayeh to form the new government in March and replace Rami Hamdallah, who resigned in January after four years in office.
Ishtayeh has a doctorate degree in economics from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. He served as director of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) and as minister of housing and construction. He was elected to the Fatah Central Committee in 2009 and again in 2016 and is close Abbas confidant.
He said that the new government’s mission will be to reunite the PA and the Gaza Strip as well as to work toward holding legislative elections.
The new government has not been elected. The last times the Arabs in the PA elected their leadership was in January 2006, 13 years ago. Abbas has since banned elections in a struggle to maintain his control over the PA.
Hamas was quick to condemn the new government’s formation, charging it with being a unilaterally Fatah-appointed and illegitimate administration.
The new government “resorts to unilateralism and monopoly of power. This move widens the Palestinian division at the expense of the Palestinian people’s interests,” Hamas stated. “The Fatah-formed separatist government lacks legal and constitutional legitimacy and it separates the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.”
The PA in the weeks leading up to the installation of the new government attempted to enlist other factions, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), which turned down the offer. Ishtayeh also hosted a Hamas delegation in Ramallah in an attempt to display unity.
The new premier stated that his government is facing unprecedented political and economic challenges, and especially after Israel ceased the transfer of taxes it collects on behalf of the PA following the PA’s practice of paying terrorists’ families.
However, he said that his government will continue to financially support families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and those killed by the Israeli army during terrorist attacks, “to strengthen the steadfastness of the Palestinian people on their land in facing the Israeli settlement policies, defend Jerusalem and its holy Muslim and Christian places in light of Israeli attempts to change their status and to build a strong national economy.”
18 governments have been formed in the past 25 years since the PA’s establishment, and some 400 ministers have served in them. About 35 billion dollars have been donated to the PA, significantly more than the sum invested per capita in the US’ Marshal Plan to lend economic assistance to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.