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The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority resigned yesterday. What comes next

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and his government all resigned yesterday. Now, the Palestinian Authority does not govern in Gaza. It administers part of the occupied West Bank. And its top official is President Mahmoud Abbas, who did not resign. But the U.S. and other Arab countries have been pushing the Palestinian Authority to reform itself, hoping that it could help govern Gaza after the war ends. NPR's Fatma Tanis is covering this from Tel Aviv. Hi there.

FATMA TANIS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Why this upheaval in the government of the Palestinian Authority now? And who might take the place of those who've resigned?

TANIS: So I should say that nothing has really changed immediately. President Mahmoud Abbas has accepted the announcement. But the prime minister and government are still in place in a caretaker role until a successor is announced, and we don't know when that would be. What Abbas is trying to do here is respond to international pressure for the Palestinian Authority to reform. It's known as dysfunctional and corrupt. You know, Arab countries have actually made this a condition for financial support. Meanwhile, the U.S. wants the PA to play a viable part in a post-war plan. So they need a government that can operate in both the West Bank and Gaza - you know, be a stabilizing factor after the war, oversee things like humanitarian aid flow in the massive effort to rebuild Gaza. Now, analysts say this is all at a surface level at this point. Any new government would need to have political buy-in from all Palestinian factions, which would include Hamas, and would be made up of technocrats who aren't politically affiliated but can run civil administration.

SHAPIRO: The way you're describing it sounds like a pipe dream. Could it actually work?

TANIS: Well, there are two main hurdles, among others. This is an effort that would require a lot of internal orchestration and leadership. And many don't think that President Abbas, who is almost 90 years old, is up for it. I spoke with Khaled Elgindy, who is the director of Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli issues at the Middle East Institute. Here's how he put it.

KHALED ELGINDY: He's not known for bold maneuvers, for strategic thinking. He is very much about maintaining his grip on power. He's hugely unpopular. So there's potential. I'm just not sure that it can happen on the watch of Mahmoud Abbas.

TANIS: The other issue is Israel's current right-wing government, who don't want to see any national Palestinian entity that's governing both Gaza and the West Bank. Israel wants a local group in Gaza taking care of stuff like schools and roads while it maintains security and military control. But that is also something that Palestinians in Gaza would be against. And experts say that could even lead to an insurgency in the enclave.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. We're talking about who would govern Palestinians. What do most Palestinians think about all this?

TANIS: Well, there's long been a sense of disillusionment among Palestinians. Today Sameer Taha in Ramallah told NPR that he was not surprised by the news. Here's what he said.

SAMEER TAHA: (Non-English language spoken).

TANIS: He says, "any new government is meaningless as long as we are not in control of our own fate and the U.S., EU and Israel get to decide what happens." We also spoke to Suhair Khaled, who would really like to see a Palestinian government that oversees Gaza and the West Bank. Here she is.

SUHAIR KHALED: (Non-English language spoken).

TANIS: She emphasized that she wants to see real unity that would help create a Palestinian state in the future and move away from the fractured politics of today. Others have said that they wanted to see Palestinian leadership that works for the people and not for their own advantages. Of course, Ari, we should mention that there have been no elections held in the Palestinian territories since 2006.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Fatma Tanis in Tel Aviv. Thank you.

TANIS: Thank you. 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.

Fatma Tanis
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