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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly considering firing his reform-mind Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and forming an entirely new government as President Barack Obama wraps up his three day visit to the region, according to media reports.
Abbas is believed to be angry with Fayyad for not consulting with him on various governmental decisions, according to China’s Xinhua New Agency, which quoted Palestinian officials discussing the row.
Tensions are high between Abbas and Fayyad, a popular figure who is well liked by Western governments for his efforts to reform Palestinian society and end corruption. Abbas, on the other hand, is known as a particularly corrupt politician.
Sources close to the issue told the Washington Free Beacon that Abbas would likely wait until after Obama’s trip to take any action against Fayyad.
Xinhua reported that tensions between Abbas and Fayyad could finally be coming to a head.
“The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that differences between Abbas and Fayyad started to mount after Fayyad accepted the resignation of finance minister earlier this month without consulting with Abbas, who was in Saudi Arabia at that time,” according to the report.
The Palestine Press News Agency recently ran a similar report.
Abbas reportedly would like to replace Fayyad with the former head of the Palestinian Investment Fund, according to the report.
“If Fayyad did get sacked, Abbas would pick Mohammad Mustafa, who just resigned as head of the Palestinian Investment Fund [PIF], to head the new government, the official said,” Xinhua reported.
Government insiders do not view Mustafa as an ally of Fayyad.
Mustafa is viewed as an Abbas crony who has enabled his corruption. Abbas has been accused by former allies of possibly stealing more than $1 billion from the PIF while Mustafa served as the organization’s chairman and CEO, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Mustafa has additionally served as Abbas’ chief economic adviser, according to Reuters.
“The U.S. government never had full confidence in Mohammad Mustafa,” one former State Department official told the Free Beacon. “If he is prime minister, lots of people in Congress will be watching our aid dollars with microscopes.”
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is already facing a possible cut off in U.S. aid. A new House bill proposes to cut off the nearly $500 million in U.S. aid if the PA fails to reform itself.
One former national security insider said that Fayyad’s departure would mark an end to most Palestinian reformation efforts.
“Salam Fayyad’s departure would be a sad day for anyone who believes in building the foundations for a peaceful, democratic, non-corrupt Palestinian state,” said Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration national security adviser.
“That’s what he has been dedicated to doing and he has made a great deal of progress—without the full support of the United States, Israel, or Arab states that he has deserved,” Abrams said. “He got more lip service than firm backing from parties whom he had the right to believe would do more.”
Fayyad’s departure would put the PA on a backwards track, Abrams said.
“His departure would open two serious questions,” according to Abrams. “Who will prevent a great increase in corruption, and who will oversee the U.S.-trained security forces to prevent them from becoming Fatah hit squads as the Palestinian forces were under [Yasser] Arafat?”
Abbas reportedly stopped talking to Fayyad in April 2012 after Fayyad refused to deliver a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to UPI.
The PA’s major donors, chief among them the U.S., have long made it clear that they do not want Abbas to push Fayyad out of the government.