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Palestinian Authority announces formation of a new cabinet amid reform pressures

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Who might run the postwar government in Gaza? The U.S. hopes it's a reformed Palestinian Authority. The PA currently governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This week, the Palestinian Authority's 88-year-old leader unveiled a new Cabinet. But as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, the new leadership is being met with widespread skepticism.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The Palestinian Authority's new Cabinet includes several ministers from Gaza. The reshuffling comes amid growing international pressure to clean up the body. Many foreign governments, including the U.S., hope a revamped authority could take over reconstruction and governance in Gaza after the war. Matthew Miller, State Department spokesman, says the U.S. will closely track the new authority's progress.

MATTHEW MILLER: We have encouraged them to implement reforms that crack down on corruption. We have encouraged them to implement reforms that increase transparency, that increase media freedoms and increase the ability for civil society to engage with the government.

KAHN: The Palestinian Authority was created back in the 1990s out of the Oslo Peace Accords. It currently governs about 40% of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and polls show it's not very popular, most when it dissolved. And for President Mahmoud Abbas to step down. His recently appointed prime minister, Muhammad Mustafa, who is a longtime close ally, hasn't instilled much confidence either that change is coming. That sentiment was widely conveyed to NPR's producer Nuha Musleh.

NUHA MUSLEH, BYLINE: I'm here at the bird market in Ramallah.

KAHN: The outdoor bazaar is packed.

MUSLEH: I see lovebirds - green, yellow, orange. People from all over Ramallah and some from Jerusalem come in order to select their beautiful pets.

KAHN: Most, like Emad Abu Awwad, selling pigeons, say they don't expect the new ministers to improve the Palestinian Authority or their lives in the West Bank.

EMAD ABU AWWAD: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: What I can tell you is this past government and the new one, it's all the same, he says. Nothing gets better, and everything is getting worse. It's all just politics. And many don't believe the authority will be able to help Gaza reconstruct due to Israel's catastrophic bombardment of the enclave, which has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians. Israel launched its military offensive after Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing more than 1200 people and taking hundreds hostage. Fifty-five-year-old architect Thaer Barghouti is skeptical of the new leaders.

THAER BARGHOUTHI: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: I doubt this government can help Gaza, he says. Many of the new ministers, while not well known, are loyal to President Abbas, and he doesn't think they'll be able to work with the many other Palestinian parties, including Hamas. Hamas expelled the authority back in 2007, and the two are bitter enemies. Unifying Palestinian factions will be a tall order, says Khaled Elgindy of the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.

KHALED ELGINDY: All the Palestinian factions have to agree on a way forward, and if this is the government that is only operating at the behest of the president, then does it have legitimacy, and can it even operate?

KAHN: Especially, Elgindy says, because Abbas continues to rule despite being elected to a single four-year term nearly two decades ago. And even if Palestinian groups could unite, there's the question of Israel accepting Palestinian Authority over the West Bank and Gaza, something Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes a Palestinian state, has adamantly rejected. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Tel Aviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.