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Palestinian Authority Finds (Perfect) New Prime Minister

Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas has appointed a new prime minister. He is Ram Hamdullah.


It is useful to remember that the post of PA prime minister was originally forced on PLO, PA, and Fatah leader Yasir Arafat ten years ago, in the hope of getting the PA to be more moderate and more competent as an economic and administrative entity.

It has not worked too well.

Hamdullah's predecessor was Salam Fayyad. Fayyad, named six years ago, was a serious economist who actually tried to curb the ruling Fatah party’s corruption. The Western donors liked Fayyad and kept him in office for years against the will of the Fatah bosses, who periodically tried to get rid of him. Yet they feared that if they forced out Fayyad, the money would be cut off. At any rate, they blocked all of Fayyad's reform measures, and he never played any significant role in negotiations with Israel.

The Fatah bosses run the PA's broad policy. The 18 members elected in 2009 are mostly hardliners, either radicals or old Arafat loyalists. After the election, moderate Ahmed Qurei (better known as Abu Ala) -- who missed out on the election by two votes -- said, albeit with exaggeration, that the Fatah elections were more dishonest than the recent ones in Iran. But even he, perhaps the most moderate individual in the higher ranks of the organization, revealed the culture of Fatah by accusing Israel of fixing the election ... and accusing those who won of being Israeli agents. The arguably most moderate leading figure claimed that Israel conspired to control the election ... by picking hardliners?

This tells you part of the problem.

The victory of people like Jibril Rajoub, Muhammad Dahlan, and Tawfik Tirawi -- all security force commanders -- showed, claimed Abu Ala, that "someone wants to see rubber stamps" in Fatah’s leadership. He implied that these people were too soft on Israel and were actually willing to make concessions as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. Of course, such a comprehensive agreement has not appeared in the last four years, and is nowhere in sight.

No need to wonder why this conflict continues when you have thinking and behavior like this.

At the same time, Gaza Strip leaders of Fatah have resigned. Even aside from vote-fixing, they do have a case. After all, since Hamas prevented many from attending the meeting, they couldn’t vote for candidates from Gaza.

And there is still more. Who beat Abu Ala for the position on the Fatah Central Committee? Tayyib Abd al-Rahman. He was for many years the head of Arafat's personal public relations operation. I remember him well from the 1980s, running Arafat's press conferences. So much for new leadership.

Now, however, this is a sign of the contempt that Fatah bosses feel toward President Barack Obama, as someone too powerless or unwilling to pressure them. It is a sign of their low respect that the replacement of Fayyad comes only a few days after Secretary of State John Kerry offered them a fund of $4 billion if the PA went back to negotiations with Israel. Which the PA refused.