Palestinian Authority’s Government to Resign as U.S. Calls for Change

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh of the Palestinian Authority, the body that administers part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, tendered the resignation of his cabinet on Monday, according to the authority’s official news agency.

The decision follows diplomatic efforts involving the United States and Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, to persuade the authority to overhaul itself in a way that would enable it to take over the administration of Gaza after the war there ends.

But it was unclear whether Mr. Shtayyeh’s resignation would be enough to revamp the authority or persuade Israel to let it govern Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas, the most senior leader of the authority, will stay in position along with his security chiefs. And after accepting Mr. Shtayyeh’s resignation, Mr. Abbas asked him to remain as a caretaker prime minister while a replacement is sought.

Israeli leaders had strongly hinted that they would not allow the authority’s existing leadership to run Gaza. American and Arab leaders had hoped that new leadership might make Israel more likely to cede administrative control of Gaza to the authority — a context that Mr. Shtayyeh discussed in his resignation statement.

“The next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip,” Mr. Shtayyeh wrote, according to Wafa, the authority’s news agency. Those challenges include the push for “the extension of the Palestinian Authority’s sovereignty over the entire land of Palestine,” he added.

With no functional parliament within the areas controlled by the authority, Mr. Abbas remains the key figure in the authority, regardless of Mr. Shtayyeh’s fate. Mr. Abbas has long ruled by decree, and he exerts wide influence over the judiciary and prosecution system. Any prime minister works under the authority of Mr. Abbas and has little leeway to make their own decisions.

According to diplomats briefed on his thinking, Mr. Abbas’s preferred candidate for prime minister is Mohammad Mustafa, a longtime economic adviser who is considered a member of his inner circle.

But analysts predicted that it could be weeks before a successor is announced.

By keeping Mr. Shtayyeh in place as a caretaker, Mr. Abbas is “basically buying time,” said Ibrahim Dalalsha, the director of the Horizon Center for Political Studies and Media Outreach, a political analysis group based in Ramallah, West Bank.

It allows Mr. Abbas to signal to foreign powers that he has begun an overhaul, while in practice delaying any substantive changes and giving himself more time to persuade domestic allies and foreign funders of Mr. Mustafa’s virtues, Mr. Dalalsha said.

“Many governments around the world — including Arab governments — have conditioned their financial support to the P.A. on creating a new Palestinian government that is accountable, that is efficient, that is inclusive,” he said.

The creation of a caretaker government “by itself does not initiate any concrete changes overnight, but it signals willingness and seriousness, at least at the political level, at moving in this direction,” Mr. Dalalsha added.

The authority was created during the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, and it was envisaged by Palestinians and their supporters as the government of a state in waiting.

Instead, the peace process collapsed and the state never materialized. The authority was left with only limited autonomy in roughly 40 percent of the West Bank. A quarter-century later, polling shows that Palestinians mainly see it as authoritarian and corrupt.

Though many Israelis accuse the authority of doing too little to combat Palestinian terrorism, Palestinians see its security services as an extension of Israel’s security apparatus because of their regular crackdowns on Palestinian militants and dissidents.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.