In Appointing a New Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas Focuses on His Rivalry with Hamas

On March 10, Mahmoud Abbas appointed Muhammad Shtayyeh the new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), replacing Rami Hamdallah who had tendered his resignation in January. Pinḥas Inbari explains the political considerations behind Shtayyeh’s appointment and the challenges he faces in forming a new government. At issue are the tensions between Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction and the other groups that make up the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO):

Shtayyeh is not [considered] a Fatah “fighter,” [since he has not] spent time in an Israeli prison. . . . Fatah’s main concern now is that its senior officials be promoted to key positions [in preparation for] the day after Mahmoud Abbas [dies or otherwise leaves office]. . . . The reason Abbas is not interested in promoting any of the senior Fatah fighters is to avoid inflaming the succession struggle now.

Instead of a Fatah government as such, Abbas is more interested in a PLO government [that includes other factions] due to his struggle with Hamas over the legitimacy of the PLO’s authority. . . . But here lies the main problem: [the other] leading PLO organizations, including the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, and Islamic Jihad, are aligned with Hamas rather than with Ramallah. It is now taken for granted that they will not join Shtayyeh’s new government. . . .

It is [nevertheless] expected that Shtayyeh will “open the door” to those organizations, which are terrorist according to every conceivable definition, thereby putting the continuation of international financial aid to Ramallah at risk. . . .

All of the above is linked to the Jerusalem issue. Ramallah wants to make the fight for Jerusalem the leading national struggle, while for Hamas, the central battle is along the borders. Abbas’s aim is to attract the PLO organizations to join Ramallah at the expense of Gaza.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, PLO


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy