Photo Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, Oct. 13, 2023.

(JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday conveyed to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas the Biden administration’s eagerness to begin working with the newly formed government in Ramallah.

During a call with Abbas, Blinken “reiterated that the United States looks forward to working with the new P.A. Cabinet to promote peace, security and prosperity and urged the implementation of necessary reforms,” according to State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller.


Blinken also “emphasized that a revitalized P.A. is essential to delivering results for the Palestinian people in both the West Bank and Gaza,” and that Washington “continues its urgent work of advancing a ceasefire [between Israel and Hamas] as part of a hostage deal, which would also facilitate a surge of crucial humanitarian assistance into Gaza and create a pathway to a more enduring peace.”

The top American diplomat also “underscored the U.S. commitment to the realization of the creation of an independent Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel,” according to Miller.

For his part, Abbas “stressed the need to halt immediately the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, and the importance of expediting the entry of medical and food supplies and supplying water, electricity and fuel to the whole of the Gaza Strip,” according to the P.A.’s official Wafa news agency.

Abbas “called upon Blinken to prevent Israel from launching any military operation in [Gaza’s] Rafah [city] and warned of the possible repercussions of such an operation, particularly affecting innocent civilians,” according to the report.

Newly minted P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa assumed his duties on Monday following a handover ceremony in Ramallah overseen by his predecessor, Mohammad Shtayyeh.

“Today, we deliver to you three documents prepared by the government. The first document is the reform plan that was presented to the world, and it is an integrated plan that was approved by donors and was developed. The second document is the government’s emergency plan for the year 2024, and the third paper is the lessons regarding Gaza’s reconstruction and economic recovery,” said Shtayyeh, according to Wafa.

Shtayyeh submitted his resignation along with that of his government on Feb. 26, saying new “arrangements” were needed to take account of the “emerging reality in the Gaza Strip.”

In addition to Mustafa, who will also hold the Foreign Ministry portfolio, the P.A. Cabinet includes 22 other ministers, most of them new faces. Only Interior Minister Ziad Hab al-Reeh, a member of Mustafa’s Fatah faction, will keep his position.

Earlier this month, Mustafa vowed to appoint a government that can “gain both the trust of our people and the support of the international community.”

He claimed Ramallah aims to enact wide-ranging administrative reforms and hold its first election since 2006. However, he did not provide a timetable for the vote, saying it would depend on “realities on the ground.”

According to a recent poll, 89% of PA Arabs support establishing a governing body that includes or is led by Hamas. Only around 8.5% said they favor the status quo, under which the Western-backed P.A. is controlled by Mustafa’s Fatah, without the participation of Hamas.

A separate survey found that most Palestinians believe Hamas is “the most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people.”

Fatah and Hamas have been engaged in unity talks geared towards forming a political alliance. Yet the latter stressed that the decision to appoint Mustafa was made “without national consensus.”

Mustafa was born in the village of Kafr Sur, near Tulkarem in western Samaria, and holds a PhD in business administration and economics from George Washington University. A longtime member of Fatah, he sits on the Executive Committee of the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization.

In 2015, Abbas appointed Mustafa as chair of the P.A.’s billion-dollar Palestine Investment Fund. A year earlier, as Ramallah’s minister of economy, he oversaw the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s 2014 military operation against Hamas (“Protective Edge”).

The Biden administration wants the P.A. to assume control of Gaza after Israel’s military operation there ends—a move that Jerusalem vehemently rejects because of Ramallah’s overt support for terrorism.

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