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New 'Revitalized' Palestinian Authority, Same as the Old Palestinian Authority - by Bassam Tawil for the Gatestone Institute - 05.04.24

The new Palestinian government... does not seem at all different from previous ones, especially regarding combating corruption and inciting violence against Israel.


According to AMAN, a Palestinian non-governmental organization that seeks to combat corruption and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in Palestinian society, 63% of Palestinians believe that the level of corruption in the PA institutions has increased.


The most common forms of corruption: favouritism and nepotism, embezzlement of public funds, breach of trust, abuse of power, bribery and money laundering.


Abbas and his close aides, who have long had an opportunity to make changes in the PA, substantial or otherwise, also do not appear interested in doing so. They seem quite comfortable with the current structure of the PA: no elections, no transparency and no accountability.


The new "revitalized" Palestinian Authority (PA) government includes Minister for Religious Affairs Muhammad Mustafa Najem, who openly called for terror attacks in a sermon on official PA TV, and demonized the Jews as "characterized by conceit, pride, arrogance, rioting, disloyalty, and treachery," adding that "Allah turned them into apes and pigs."

 

As part of a US plan to "revitalize" the Palestinian Authority (PA), a new PA government headed by Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa was announced in late March. While the US administration has not clarified what it means by the "revitalization" of the PA, one can only assume that refers to the need to implement financial and administrative reforms in all PA institutions and see the emergence of new leaders in Ramallah who would work to improve the living conditions of their people and prepare them for peace with Israel.


The new Palestinian Authority government, however, is unlikely to achieve any of these goals: it does not seem at all different from the previous ones, especially regarding combating corruption and inciting violence against Israel.


Like his predecessor, Mohammad Shtayyeh, the new prime minister, Mustafa, is a longtime loyalist of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Until recently, Mustafa served as an economic advisor to Abbas since 2005. Between 2013 and 2014, he served as deputy prime minister of the PA and minister for national economy. Mustafa has also served as chairman of the Palestinian Investment Fund, an independent investment company established in 2003 with the aim of strengthening the Palestinian economy.


As such, it is hard to say that Mustafa represents new leadership in the PA. He belongs very much to the old guard of the Palestinian leadership, seen by many Palestinians as incompetent and corrupt.


Although Mustafa has held several key economic jobs in the PA, it is also hard to say that the Palestinian Authority economy has improved, if at all, during his tenure. According to the World Bank, the PA's budget deficit in 2021 was $1.26 billion, with a financing gap of $940 million (namely, the deficit minus international aid donations).


This gap is attributable to four main factors: a bloated and inefficient public sector, a massive drop in budgetary aid, the withholding by Israel of clearance revenues in response to the PA's policy of paying terrorists who murder or wound Jews, and impaired domestic revenue collection.


A public opinion poll published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in September 2023 found that 87% of Palestinians believe corruption still exists in PA institutions.


According to AMAN, a Palestinian non-governmental organization that seeks to combat corruption and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in Palestinian society, 63% of Palestinians believe that the level of corruption in the PA institutions has increased. The most common forms of corruption: favoritism and nepotism, embezzlement of public funds, breach of trust, abuse of power, bribery and money laundering.


The ongoing economic crisis and the deepening belief among Palestinians that the PA and its institutions are corrupt shows that Mustafa did not do a particularly outstanding job as economic advisor to Abbas or as minister for national economy. Why, then, should anyone assume that he will succeed in changing the situation for the better as prime minister? Mustafa was unable to bring about changes in the past because he was subordinate to Abbas and his inner circle, who retain the final say on political, economic and security matters.


Abbas and his close aides, who have long had an opportunity to make changes in the PA, substantial or otherwise, also do not appear interested in doing so. They seem quite comfortable with the current structure of the PA: no elections, no transparency and no accountability.


For Abbas and his aides, the Palestinian Authority is a private fiefdom. Anyone who dares to challenge them or speak out against the lack of democracy or demand an end to corruption, is punished by losing his or her job or being expelled from key Palestinian decision-making bodies, such as the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee.


Mustafa is undoubtedly aware that he would likely meet the same fate if he dared to challenge Abbas's autocratic rule and exclusive control of the PA's finances. Mustafa did not challenge Abbas in the past, and he is unlikely to do so now that his boss has appointed him prime minister.


There is also good reason to believe that the new prime minister and his cabinet ministers are not going to stop the massive incitement to violence against Israel and the demonization of Jews.


In his first speech at the cabinet meeting in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, Mustafa repeated the libels of his predecessor by accusing Israel of carrying out "genocide and extrajudicial killings." Mustafa was referring to the war in the Gaza Strip, which erupted after thousands of Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on October 7, 2023, killing 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping more than 240 others, half of whom are still held hostage inside the coastal enclave. Mustafa also did not see fit to condemn Hamas for initiating the war and bringing catastrophe on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.


Further evidence that the new "revitalized" Palestinian Authority government is not headed toward promoting peace with Israel surfaced on March 31, when Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) revealed inflammatory statements made by two of the newly appointed cabinet ministers.


According to the PMW report, Muna al-Khalili, the new PA Minister of Women's Affairs, is an outspoken terror supporter, having publicly glorified the murder of 37 Israeli civilians, among other effusions.


As chairwoman of the PLO General Union of Palestinian Women, al-Khalili spoke at an event honoring Dalal Mughrabi, who led the most murderous terror attack in Israel's history prior to October 7, 2023. On March 11, 1978, Mughrabi led a team of PLO terrorists who hijacked a civilian bus and murdered 37 civilians, including 12 children and, on another occasion, the American photographer Gail Rubin.


In her speech, al-Khalili praised the terror attack as a "quality resistance operation" and said that Mughrabi "proved that Palestinian women are capable of carrying out the most difficult missions."


Ten days after Hamas's October 7 massacre, al-Khalil honoured Palestinian convicted murderers as "heroic prisoners." The General Union of Palestinian Women, which al-Khalili heads, held a vigil calling for the release of terrorist prisoners just 10 days after the Hamas atrocities. Al-Khalili sat right behind four posters featuring the names and pictures of different terrorist murderers imprisoned in Israel for past terror attacks, each with the text: "Freedom for the heroic prisoner."


The new "revitalized" government also includes religious leader Muhammad Mustafa Najem, who was appointed as minister of religious affairs.


Palestinian Media Watch revealed that Najem had openly called for terror attacks in a sermon on official PA TV: "O servants of Allah, be the ones through which Allah will afflict the Jews with the worst torment."


Najem went on to demonize the Jews with toxic antisemitism. He said they are "characterized by conceit, pride, arrogance, rioting, disloyalty, and treachery," and adding that "Allah turned them into apes and pigs."


PMW urged Israel and the US, which has led the call for a "revitalized" PA, to demand that Najem, al-Khalili and any other terror supporters in the new PA government be immediately replaced, adding:


"If the previous PA terror-supporting government is replaced by a new terror-supporting government, the PA is making a mockery of the US demand for "revitalization.'"


It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will act on this information – or, instead, pretend that Abbas has taken real steps to "revitalize" the PA.



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New 'Revitalized' Palestinian Authority, Same as the Old Palestinian Authority - by Bassam
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Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East. The work of Bassam Tawil is made possible through the generous donation of a donor who wished to remain anonymous. Gatestone is most grateful.


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