How Will the Palestinian Government Establish New Roles for Power in the West Bank and Gaza?

Situation Assessment: The appointment of Mohammad Mostafa to form a Palestinian government and the challenges it will face in the regional and international arena while achieving its objectives in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as the requirements necessary for the government to achieve its objectives, is addressed.

  • Release Date – Mar 28, 2024

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abas appointed economist Mohammad Mustafa prime minister on March 14, 2024 with a mandate to form the new Palestinian “technocratic” government that will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in all governorates, including East Jerusalem and Gaza.

But the reality seems more difficult and complicated. From day one, the appointed prime minister has faced a group of challenges that include the refusal of the forming of the government by the Palestinian factions Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front, and National Initiative. In addition to the doubts that the Palestinian government has the sovereignty and ability to reform the Palestinian Authority as well as the doubts about the government’s ability to run Gaza and earn the trust of the international community to supervise the rebuilding of it after the war.

The decision to form a new technocratic government in Palestine came in response to four main variables caused by the war in Gaza.

1- Responding to U.S. pressure to reform the Palestinian Authority and allow it to run Gaza Strip after the war. This considered as part of the American plan for achieving the two-state solution.

2- Building on the outcome of this year’s Feb. 29–March 2 meeting in Moscow of Palestinian factions in which all 14 factions issued a statement recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

3- Attempting to curb the individual movement within Fatah and the Palestinian authority especially between political rivals seeking appearance in the Palestinian arena to take part in the next phase.

4- Confronting the Israeli government’s extremist policies toward the Palestinian Authority and the two-state solution as reflected in the “Document of Principles” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put forward on February 22, 2024. The vast majority in Knesset voted to reject unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state.

   Areas of Difficulties for the Government

The Palestinian government will face many difficulties and challenges in every area of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in both regional and international stages. Including:

- The West Bank

The West Bank is considered the home of the government and its surrounding, and it is a place for escalation at any moment as the war in Gaza continues. Especially in light of the crises that the Palestinian Authority face, such as the financial crisis exacerbated by Israel withholding clearing funds; the prevention of Palestinian laborers from working inside Israel; the unstable security of some areas and camps in the north of the West Bank; and the ongoing Israeli military incursions into the West Bank on an almost  daily basis, which could potentially lead to a heightened wave of violence, especially during the month of Ramadan.

- The Gaza Strip

Gaza Strip was under the administration of the Palestinian Authority before Hamas took over in 2007. There are efforts to restore that administration after the current war ends despite the complexities associated with this, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding the future role of Hamas or its military wing as well as the ambiguity of the security and humanitarian situation in the Strip given the immense destruction of infrastructure, the massive casualties, prisoners, and missing persons among the population, and the complexities of reconstruction, which may take years or even decades. There is also the new reality that Israel is attempting to impose, such as the security buffer zone, separation roads, military deployment zones, the Rafah crossing, and other contentious issues.


- The Israeli Arena

 The Israeli arena poses the most complex and challenging situation for the incoming government, especially given the dominance of the far-right, which rejects any non-Jewish sovereignty over the West Bank territories. The Israeli government adopts policies and measures that enhance Israeli control, promotes the annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and seeks to undermine the Palestinian Authority. It also refuses to recognize any role for the PA in the Gaza Strip after the war.

- The Regional Arena

This arena is filled with contradictions between groups and countries with different priorities and interests. Some have close relationships with the Palestinian Authority, such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, while others are closer to Hamas, such as Qatar, Turkey, and Iran.

- The International Arena

This is the arena of major factors and delicate balances in confronting Israel and acquiring legitimacy and political and financial support, especially from the United States, the European Union, and international political and economic institutions. These governments and institutions have strict requirements that no Palestinian government can afford to ignore.

Three Requirements to Achieve Three Goals

In light of the challenges, the incoming Palestinian government faces three requirements to achieve its primary objectives, which include managing post-war Gaza, overseeing reconstruction funds, and preparing the Authority to align with the two-state solution. These requirements include national recognition, gaining international and regional trust, and political reform.

First: National Reconciliation

National reconciliation is a key factor in enhancing the government’s ability to reform the Palestinian Authority, reunify the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and facilitate the engagement of Hamas and Islamic Jihad within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization. However, achieving such reconciliation is extremely challenging due to the positions of the factions towards the Authority and vice versa, exacerbated by the war in the Gaza Strip.

This became particularly evident after the Palestinian Authority expressed its willingness to manage the Strip from the early days of the war. On November 11, 2023, President Abbas said the Authority could play a role in managing Gaza provided there is a comprehensive political solution that also includes the occupied West Bank. Meanwhile, leaders within the Authority and Fatah believe that sidelining Hamas from the Palestinian equation both strengthens and empowers the Authority’s role and approach.

However, the appointed prime minister has expressed his determination to achieve national reconciliation. Yet, indicating the difficulty of this, Palestinian factions have rejected the Palestinian president’s method of appointing the government in principle. They accused the Palestinian Authority of insisting on continuing a policy of unilateralism and being preoccupied with formal and empty steps without a national consensus. These factions aspire to a Palestinian government in which they can participate.


Second: Gaining International and Regional Trust

 The trust of the international and regional community is crucial for empowering the Palestinian government, especially in confronting extremist Israeli policies, aiding its ability to manage and rebuild the Gaza Strip, and granting political and economic support for the government.

Despite the notable international welcome to the formation of the Palestinian government by, among others, the United States, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations, Britain, France, China, the Netherlands, and Norway, Mustafa will need to convince the international community and donor agencies that his government differs from its predecessors and enjoys independence away from the centers of power in the Palestinian Authority and Fatah.

On the other hand, the prime minister-designate has not previously held positions in foreign policy and international relations. He will find himself faced with the task of building a Palestinian foreign policy that balances between various stakeholders and donors, both international and regional.

Third: Political Reform

 The political reform awaited by Arab and Western countries is a fundamental demand to access donor funds for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and to prepare the structures and institutions of the Palestinian Authority for the requirements of the two-state solution. This is especially important as international pressure on Israel increases to accept the two-state solution and many countries move towards unilateral recognition of the Palestinian state.

Achieving this requires that Palestinian institutions and structures are capable of building a foreign and domestic policy that aligns with a state, not just a movement. Furthermore, reform is an American condition, as stated by U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson: “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.”

Therefore, the government faces a question about guarantees for implementing its comprehensive reform program, if any, and mechanisms to regain trust in light of the lack of clarity regarding the powers of the new Palestinian government. This is compounded by the continuation of power centers within the Fatah movement, Palestinian security apparatuses, and the branches of authority remaining unchanged.

In conclusion, the new government does not seem to have much room for maneuvering, given the limited options in light of the realities of the Palestinian, Israeli, regional, and international contexts. These realities raise the likelihood of the new government remaining within the boundaries of its predecessors.

It is expected that there will be a new government in the West Bank, with some formal differences and partial financial facilities. Yet this change, to be successful, awaits radical changes affecting the structure of the Palestinian Authority and the positions of Hamas and the Israeli government at the minimum to ensure that the new government is capable of managing the current phase.


Policy Analysis Team