The Palestinian Authority Careens toward Its Next Political Crisis

For the first time since 2006, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and possibly Jerusalem are planning to vote in parliamentary elections, to be held on May 22. These are to be followed in June by a presidential election, in which the incumbent—Mahmoud Abbas, who was voted into office for a four-year term in 2005—plans to run. Both Abbas’s Fatah faction and its rival, Hamas, have agreed to participate in the race. Jonathan Schanzer comments:

Polls suggest that Hamas could emerge as the strongest party once again. More gridlock, dysfunction, and strife could follow. . . .With no restrictions on Hamas’s participation and as Abbas’s polling numbers flatline, the Palestinian Authority [PA] looks likely to be heading for a repeat of 2006, [where a Hamas victory led to a brief civil war and the severing of Gaza from the West Bank]. That said, a recent change in the Palestinian election law stipulating proportional representation in parliament will make outright control more difficult for one party. But a Palestinian Authority significantly influenced by Hamas is not just possible; it’s probable.

But the blame belongs to Abbas. In his sixteen years of absolute power, he has barred political challengers and shut down political debate. If Palestinian elections are held, they will occur in a political vacuum. The alternative was a patient process of institution-building along the lines of what Salam Fayyad, [who served as the PA prime minister from 2007-2013 and plans to run in the upcoming election], advocated. As he knew well, democracy is a system of governance that cannot be built on voting alone. Rather, it must be built on parties, structures, and the rigorous debate of ideas.

That’s not possible this time around. But Abbas could still postpone the elections or work with other parties to restrict terrorist participation. Should he reject both of these paths, a new Palestinian political crisis is slated to begin on May 22.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad


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