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Abbas (R) with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh at a Cabinet meeting. Photo: Majdi Mohammed/AFP via Getty

Ramallah — Amid growing domestic criticism, Abbas is planning to reshuffle the Palestinian government and replace a number of ambassadors and governors.

The intrigue: A senior Palestinian official told me the changes would include appointing a new minister of the interior and a new minister of endowments, the officials responsible for the security forces and for religious affairs and Muslim holy sites, respectively.

  • Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh held both roles himself for several years.
  • The Palestinian official, who asked not to be named, added that there will be a limited number of other changes in the Cabinet, all to be announced in the coming days.

Driving the news: The PA faced large protests after the death last month of Palestinian political activist Nizar Banat following his arrest by security forces.

  • The PA also faces criticism over its response to the recent war in Gaza, its decision to reject a vaccine deal with Israel, and Abbas' decision to delay what would have been the first legislative elections in 15 years in May.

There is also international pressure to move toward elections.

  • A European diplomat told me the EU has asked Abbas to set an approximate date to hold legislative and presidential elections and wants “a clear signal and commitment that the elections have been postponed and not canceled."

Behind the scenes: According to another Palestinian official, the Hamas movement rejected a proposal to form a consensus government that could be acceptable to the international community, and instead it proposed a two-year transitional council.

  • There are major unresolved differences between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah party over the reconstruction of Gaza.

What’s next: In the midst of all this, the PA is facing a financial crunch that may render it unable to pay its employees' salaries in the coming months.

  • Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. officials have been working on initiatives to help support the PA.

Go deeper

Sep 8, 2021 - World

Biden reiterates plan to reopen Jerusalem consulate despite Israeli objections

Bennett with Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/Pool/Getty

President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during their White House meeting that he will not abandon his plan to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, setting up a major point of contention between the administrations.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by Donald Trump. Senior officials in Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.

Sep 8, 2021 - World

Afghan evacuation role boosts Qatar in Washington

Blinken (2nd-R) and Austin (L) with their Qatari counterparts Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (R) and Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty

Qatar played host Tuesday to both Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in a sign of how the Gulf country's role in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has strengthened its standing in Washington.

Why it matters: Qatar became a central partner for the U.S. in the region as it mediated between the U.S. and the Taliban, and Doha was the largest hub of the massive U.S. evacuation effort.

Sep 8, 2021 - World

Israel prison break sparks riots as manhunt continues

The hole the prisoners escaped from. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images

With the manhunt for six Palestinian prisoners who tunneled their way out of an Israeli maximum-security prison continuing for the third day, riots have been reported at three additional prisons.

Why it matters: The “Shawshank Redemption” style escape turned the six prisoners into heroes in the West Bank and Gaza, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza threatening an escalation if they are harmed. Thousands of police and Israel Defense Forces soldiers are searching for them.

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