Muhammad Mustafa: The New Palestinian Prime Minister Leading Gaza Reconstruction and Unity Efforts

2024-03-15 04:25:48

Who is Muhammad Mustafa, the new Palestinian Prime Minister?

Today, Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Muhammad Mustafa to form a new Palestinian government. He is one of the largest Palestinian businessmen and a rare ally of Abbas, who witnessed the reconstruction of Gaza during the Hamas movement’s administration of the Strip.

Mustafa, a US-educated economist, previously ran the Palestinian telecommunications group Paltel, as well as the Palestine Investment Fund, affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, with assets of about $1 billion to finance projects throughout the Palestinian territories.

He was appointed ten years ago to help lead the reconstruction efforts in Gaza, after a previous war between Israel and Hamas.

Palestinian leaders hope that he will now emerge as a figure to unite the factions, in light of his readiness to rebuild the Gaza Strip, five months after the Israeli bombing that followed the Palestinian movement’s attack on Israel, on October 7th.

The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank and not Gaza after losing control over it to Hamas in 2007, aims to reunite the rule of the Palestinian territories after the Gaza War.

Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah movement led by Mahmoud Abbas, resigned last February, to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government. Although Mustafa is close to Abbas, he is not a member of Fatah, which may make him less controversial.

Muhammad Mustafa, Palestinian Prime Minister-designate, March 19, 2015 (Ministry of Economy page via Facebook)

Mustafa will face a huge administrative and diplomatic task, after large areas of Gaza have now turned into rubble, and most of its 2.3 million people have been displaced and in need of aid.

The West Bank is also witnessing the worst violence in decades. In addition to the task of supervising expected international aid worth billions of dollars, Mustafa will need political support from Hamas and its supporters, and cooperation from Israel, which wants to eliminate the movement.

The United States called for radical reforms in the method of administration within the Palestinian Authority. Washington wants the Palestinian Authority to play a leadership role in governing the Strip after the war.

Palestinian economist Muhammad Abu Jiyab said, according to Reuters: “Everyone is in a crisis. Fatah in the West Bank is in crisis, and Hamas is also clearly in crisis in the Gaza Strip.” He added that Mustafa (69 years old) could represent the “way out” for both of them.

October 7 “A symptom of a larger problem”

Palestinian President Abbas appointed Mustafa as head of the Palestine Investment Fund in 2015. He served as deputy prime minister for economic affairs from 2013 to 2014, and headed a committee charged with rebuilding Gaza after the seven-week war, in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed.

In a speech he delivered in Davos, on January 17, Mustafa said: “The disaster and the humanitarian impact of the war now are much greater than they were ten years ago.”

Health authorities in Gaza say that 31,000 people have been confirmed dead, and thousands more are believed to be buried under the rubble.

Israel says that it will never cooperate with any Palestinian government that refuses to disavow Hamas and its attack that it launched on October 7, which resulted in the killing of 1,200 people and the taking of 253 hostages, according to Israeli statistics.

In his speech in Davos, Mustafa described the October 7 attack as “unfortunate for everyone.”

He said: “But it is also a symptom of a larger problem… that the Palestinian people have been suffering from for 75 years without stopping.” He added: “To this day, we still believe that establishing a state for the Palestinians is the way forward, so we hope that we will be able, this time, to achieve that. So that all people in the region can live in security and peace.”

Mustafa is a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Abbas, which recognized Israel at the beginning of the peace process in 1993; In the hope of establishing a Palestinian state on the lands occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, namely the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

moving forward

Mustafa said that the Palestinian Authority can do better, in terms of building more efficient institutions and better governance; “So that we can reunite Gaza and the West Bank.”

But he added: “If we cannot remove the occupation, no reformist government or reformed institutions will be able to build a good and successful governance system, or develop a suitable economy.”

Mustafa was born in the city of Tulkarm in the West Bank. He obtained a doctorate in business administration and economics from George Washington University, and worked at the World Bank in the American capital.

He stated, on January 17, that rebuilding homes alone would require $15 billion.

He said that he would continue to focus on humanitarian efforts in the short and medium term, expressing his hope that the Gaza borders would be opened and a reconstruction conference would be held.

In response to a question about the future role he expects for Hamas, Mustafa also said that “the best way forward is for (the process) to be as comprehensive as possible,” adding that he would like the Palestinians to unite around the PLO’s agenda.

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