Israel shows willingness to free high-profile Palestinians: Live News


Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh of the Palestinian Authority, the body that administers part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, resigned from his cabinet on Monday, according to the authority’s official news agency.

The decision follows diplomatic efforts involving the United States and Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, to persuade the authority to reform in a way that would allow it to take over administration of Gaza after the war there ends.

But it was unclear whether Shtayyeh’s resignation would be enough to renew authority or persuade Israel to allow him to rule Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas, the authority’s top leader, will remain in office along with his security chiefs. And after accepting Shtayyeh’s resignation, Abbas asked him to remain as interim prime minister while a replacement is sought.

Israeli leaders had strongly hinted that they would not allow the authority’s existing leaders to govern Gaza. American and Arab leaders hoped that new leadership would make it more likely that Israel would cede administrative control of Gaza to the authority, a context that Shtayyeh discussed in his resignation statement.

“The next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip,” Shtayyeh wrote, according to Wafa, the authority’s news agency. Those challenges include the push for “the extension of the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority over all of the land of Palestine,” she added.

Without a functional parliament within the areas controlled by the authority, Abbas remains the authority’s key figure, regardless of Shtayyeh’s fate. Abbas has long ruled by decree and wields broad influence over the judicial and prosecution system. Any prime minister works under the authority of Abbas and has little room for maneuver to make his own decisions.

According to diplomats briefed on his thinking, Abbas’s preferred candidate for prime minister is Mohammad Mustafa, a longtime economic adviser who is considered a member of his inner circle.

But analysts predicted it could be weeks before a successor is announced.

By keeping Shtayyeh in charge, Abbas is “basically buying time,” said Ibrahim Dalalsha, director of the Horizon Center for Political Studies and Media Outreach, a political analysis group based in Ramallah, West Bank.

It allows Abbas to signal to foreign powers that he has begun reform, while effectively delaying any substantial changes and giving himself more time to persuade domestic allies and foreign financiers of Mustafa’s virtues, Dalalsha said.

“Many governments around the world – including Arab governments – have conditioned their financial support to the Palestinian Authority on the creation of a new Palestinian government that is accountable, efficient and inclusive,” he said.

The creation of a caretaker government “by itself does not initiate any concrete change overnight, but it indicates willingness and seriousness, at least at the political level, to move in this direction,” Dalalsha added.

The authority was created during the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, and was viewed by Palestinians and their supporters as the government of a state in waiting.

Instead, the peace process collapsed and the state never materialized. The authority was left with limited autonomy in about 40 percent of the West Bank. A quarter-century later, polls show that Palestinians primarily see him as authoritarian and corrupt.

Although many Israelis accuse the authority of doing too little to combat Palestinian terrorism, Palestinians see its security services as an extension of Israel’s security apparatus due to its regular crackdowns on Palestinian militants and dissidents.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

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