New Palestinian PM faces myriad challenges, say analysts

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtayeh at his office in Ramallah. (FIle/AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019

New Palestinian PM faces myriad challenges, say analysts

  • The majority of Palestinian political factions wasted little time rejecting his appointment

GAZA CITY: Mohammed Ishtayeh, the man charged with forming a new Palestinian government, faces many challenges.

Carrying the “heavy legacy” of predecessor Rami Hamdallah, who headed the national reconciliation government that emerged between Fatah and Hamas in 2014, he knows he cannot count on the support of Gaza’s ruling faction.

It is not just Hamas he must win round. The majority of Palestinian political factions wasted little time rejecting his appointment, calling it a move by President Mahmoud Abbas that “violated the national consensus.” Moreover, the new prime minister must also contend with a growing financial crisis, partially as a result of Israeli tax policies, which has not been made easier by increased tensions between Israel and Hamas in recent months along the border with Gaza.

Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah’s central committee, told Arab News that Ishtiyah possessed leadership qualities that would enable him to succeed, despite his mandate coming in “very difficult circumstances.” 

He stressed, though, that unless it had a “very clear” long-term vision, any government he formed would probably fail.

Ahmad Bahar, the first deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, claimed any government of Ishtayeh would be “unconstitutional and illegal.”

Bahar, also a senior Hamas figure, called the coming government a “separatist” entity, seeking to “split the West Bank from the Gaza Strip ... and strengthen internal divisions and eliminate any glimmer of hope in achieving national unity.”

Talal Abu Zarifa, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, justified his faction’s refusal to support Ishtayeh, saying his government would “widen the circle of difference and division in Palestine.”

The political analyst Hossam Al-Dajani, though, told Arab News that Ishtayeh would look for ways to break through the challenges facing his government, both in terms of the relationship with Hamas and the other factions in Gaza, but that his success would depend on the extent of freedom granted to him by Abbas to make decisions, and less on opposition from Hamas.

US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

Updated 20 March 2019

US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

  • Cites Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon
  • Says Iran's ballistic missile test and satellite launches violated UN Security Council resolution

JEDDAH: Iran’s missile program is destabilizing the Middle East, and Tehran risks starting a regional arms race by supplying weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen, a senior US arms control official said on Tuesday.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she said.

US President Donald Trump said when he quit the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that the agreement failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The US has accused Iran of defying a UN Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce UN Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran. She also accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes,” but did not provide details.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Iran had the largest ballistic program in the Middle East. “Through its ballistic missile program, the Iranian regime appears determined to escalate tensions in the region and seek every opportunity to project its power in order to reassert its hegemony,” he said. “The international community ought to hold Tehran accountable for its military adventurism and violations of international standards.”