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Who is Mohammad Mustafa, the new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) poses with Mohammad Mustafa, the former deputy prime minister and the chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, after the latter was appointed as new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, in Ramallah, West Bank, on Thursday.
Palestinian Presidency/Anadolu via Getty Images
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) poses with Mohammad Mustafa, the former deputy prime minister and the chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, after the latter was appointed as new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, in Ramallah, West Bank, on Thursday.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appointed his longtime economic adviser to be the next prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and has tasked him with forming a new government.

Mohammad Mustafa is taking over the role in a move seen as an attempt to appease U.S. demands for reform so that the Palestinian Authority could govern Gaza in a postwar era.

The development is unlikely to please Palestinians, however, who have long expressed discontentwith the Palestinian Authority's leadership, especially as the 88-year-old Abbas remains president.

"Overall, it's pretty meaningless. Because it's not going to change anything, for Palestinians internally or with regard to the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel," said Joel Beinin, the Donald J. McLachlan professor of history and professor of Middle East history, emeritus, at Stanford University.

Who is Mustafa?

The almost 70-year-old Mustafa has been a senior economic affairs adviser to Abbas since 2005.

He previously served as the national economy minister and the deputy prime minister for the Palestinian Authority. He has been the chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund since 2009.

Mustafa also has ties to the United States. He received a master's degree and a Ph.D. at Washington, D.C.'s George Washington University. He previously worked for the World Bank as well.

Given Mustafa's longtime connection to Abbas, he is widely seen as a loyalist to the president.

"Mohammad Mustafa is a person who has been part of the authority in his capacity as an adviser to Mahmoud Abbas for years. So this is not injecting new blood, not injecting younger blood, because he's 70 years old. It's not gonna fix the reputation of the authority among Palestinians," Beinin said.

The White House's National Security Council said it welcomed the appointment of Mustafa as prime minister, according to spokesperson Adrienne Watson.

"We urge the formation of a reform cabinet as soon as possible," Watson said in a statement. "The United States will be looking for this new government to deliver on policies and implementation of credible and far-reaching reforms. A reformed Palestinian Authority is essential to delivering results for the Palestinian people and establishing the conditions for stability in both the West Bank and Gaza."

The Palestinian Authority is still deeply unpopular

The Palestinian Authority was created as part of the Oslo Accords, a set of agreements signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s.

It was given control over pieces of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority went on to lose control of Gaza to Hamas after fighting in 2007 and now controls only about 40% of the occupied West Bank. The rest of the West Bank is in Israeli hands.

A majority of Palestinians are still not supportive of this governmental body. A recent study from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that nearly 60% of Palestinians want the Palestinian Authority dissolved and that 88% want Abbas to resign.

"People are generally disgusted with the Palestinian Authority. It has very little respectability in the West Bank and even less in the Gaza Strip, among other reasons, because they have done absolutely nothing in response to Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip after Oct. 7. But even long before that, they had lost credibility," Beinin said.

Palestinians spoke to NPR about their discontent with their leadership in the West Bank in late February. Citizens there said the Palestinian Authority needs to make changes to care for its citizens in Palestinian territories — something that they say the government has failed to do, including not even addressing the basic needs of the population.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat shake hands, marking the signing of the peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, as U.S. President Bill Clinton looks on, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13, 1993.
Ron Edmonds / AP
/
AP
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat shake hands, marking the signing of the peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, as U.S. President Bill Clinton looks on, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13, 1993.

What's next for the new prime minister?

Now-former Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who announced that he was tendering the resignation of his cabinet last month, has remained on hand to serve as a caretaker to the government.

In his announcement of the appointment, Abbas asked Mustafa to create plans to reunite the administration of the West Bank and Gaza, reform the government and address corruption.

While the White House has expressed support for Mustafa's appointment, Beinin noted it's unlikely to be enough to ever get Israel's current government on board to support a Palestinian Authority-controlled Gaza.

"I'm sorry to say this, but President Biden is delusional in imagining that that can happen under the current Israeli government," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected Palestinian Authority control of Gaza after the war, saying that civilian governance should be given to local leaders.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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