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Meet Mohammad Mustafa, likely incoming Palestinian PM

Former Chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund Mohammad Mustafa (L) poses for a photo with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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After weeks of silence, President Mahmoud Abbas’ purported personal choice to head the 19th Palestinian government appears to be gaining traction. According to a senior Jordanian source in Amman who had a central role planning the recent Moscow summit attended by 14 Palestinian factions, the US-educated Mohammad Mustafa, former chairman of the Palestinian Investment Foundation, will be tapped by Abbas within days to assume the prime ministership and form a government. Mustafa has reportedly recently returned from a visit to Washington, allegedly with the blessing of the US administration, yet no details have been released about that trip.

A flurry of visits by officials to several Arab capitals in recent days — especially by PLO secretary Hussein Sheikh, who visited Jordan and Saudi Arabia for high-level talks — appears to be aimed at gaining Arab support for the appointment.

Conversations in WhatsApp groups made up mostly of Fatah and Palestinian Authority personnel on Monday and Tuesday indicate that the public anointing of the former chairman of the Palestinian Investment Foundation will take place within days.

Abbas eschews Moscow meeting 

The decision came after a recent summit was held in Moscow, in which 14 Palestinian factions agreed to the need for unity under the PLO banner. However, the Ramallah-based leadership did not throw its support behind the summit's outcomes, rejecting any power-sharing with Hamas. Sources in Ramallah, Doha and Amman told Al-Monitor that Abbas told Qatar and Turkey, hosts of Hamas leadership, that his repudiation comes amid concerns that taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which account for roughly 60% of its budget, would all be in jeopardy if the PLO absorbs Hamas. Funds from the United States and European Union could also be compromised, Abbas has conveyed. 

According to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas has continued to make local appointments to governorships in response to recommendations from local committees — a move intended to show that he's serious about calls for reform and greater representation. 

However, the expected appointment of Mustafa has done little to lessen the activity of the caretaker government led by Mohammad Shtayyeh, who resigned as prime minister in recent weeks and collapsed his government at Abbas' behest. Shtayyeh met with European Union and Japanese officials in Ramallah last week and chaired the regular weekly morning cabinet meeting Monday for the second week in a row since resigning.

Palestinian sources in Ramallah told Al-Monitor that while the Netanyahu government has been publicly hostile toward the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, largely because Abbas has refused to denounce Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the head of the Palestinian intelligence, Majed Farraj, was contacted by the Israelis to help them distribute food and other humanitarian aid in Gaza. The Netanyahu government had previously said it wouldn't work with the PA but likely acquiesced at the urging of its security establishment. 

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