Middle East Desk Report
RAMALLAH, West Bank/GAZA (Reuters) – One man has become the face of the Palestinians’ response to the COVID-19 crisis, and it’s not President Mahmoud Abbas.
Rather it is Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, an economist-turned-politician whose prominence in tackling the coronavirus has led many Palestinians to predict that he may one day succeed 84-year-old Abbas as president. For Shtayyeh an unelected Abbas appointee – the urgency of the Palestinian Authority (PA) efforts to curb the virus have helped reinvigorate the domestic image of a body long viewed by some as corrupt and unproductive. Some 96 percent of West Bank Palestinians trust the way the PA under Shtayyeh has handled the pandemic, said a recent poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre.
The West Bank has recorded 354 cases and just two deaths. After an outbreak in Bethlehem in March the PA moved quickly to impose a full lockdown, fearing its weak health system would be overwhelmed. “The current crisis has bolstered Shtayyeh’s presence and cemented the impression that he might be the next president,” said political analyst Akram Atallah. “He has brandished an image as a successful administrator in the eyes of the media, a leader who can be trusted to navigate a pandemic.”