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New PA Prime Minister After US Veto At UN

After the United States vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution that condemned the Israel artillery incident that killed 19 Palestinians in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanun, ruling groups Fatah and Hamas have announced an agreed upon successor to Ismail Haniyeh as the Palestinian Prime Minister. After months of stalled negotiations on the formation of a unity government, it has been agreed to that Muhammad Shbeir, the former head of the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip, will take over soon as the PA Prime Minister. Shbeir, “who is close to Hamas but says he is not a member,” is expected to head the PA government in the next few weeks.

While Fatah and Hamas have agreed to a non-Hamas prime minister, yet to be resolved is the more important issue of whether any Unity government with Hamas participation will recognize Israel’s right to exist and denounce terrorism, keys to the restoration of Western aid crucial to Palestinian society. It is also a precondition to Israel sitting down to formal negotiations regarding the creation of a Palestinian state and demarcation of borders.

But while the absence of huge amounts of aid money from Europe and the United States has been devastating to a Palestinian economy incapable of sustaining itself, following the US veto of the condemnation of Israel, the Arab League has decided to no longer cut off aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, a boycott enacted after the terrorist group Hamas was swept into power in the January 2006 Palestinian elections.

US Ambassador John Bolton said of the American decision to veto the UN Security Council condemnation, “We are disturbed that there is not a single reference to terrorism in the proposed resolution, nor any condemnation of the Hamas leadership statement that Palestinians should resume terror attacks on a broad scale.” The veto was received harshly in the Middle East.

“This sends a message that causes us great sorrow and anger. The message was well received, and it tells us that the peace process is completely dead,” said the Arab League’s secretary-general Amr Mussa. The Arab League released a statement calling for an emergency meeting concerning the situation in Gaza. In announcing the decision, Mussa said of restarting monetary support for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, “There will be no compliance with any restriction imposed… . The Arab banks have to transfer money [to the Palestinians].” The Arab League, however, has been criticized both within the Middle East and elsewhere for regularly pledging to support various groups and causes but routinely failing to live up to its stated monetary expectations, with member-states often reneging on open pledges made at the highly publicized meetings.

Hamas, and to a degree the Palestinian Authority, have not been devoid of all support, however. Iran has pledged and lived up to its commitment to support the Hamas-led government in the absence of Western aid. However, little of the support provided by Iran has been seen by the PA-proper, which might enable it to pay salaries neglected since January. Rather, in lieu of monetary assistance, the Iranian support has been principally in the form of weapons smuggled into Gaza through an intricate system of tunnels beneath its border with Egypt, fueling a massive arms buildup in Gaza.

With the principal source of internal friction between Hamas and Fatah remaining the Hamas-led government’s inability to pay salaries, Iran’s decision to provide arms rather than cash illustrates Iran’s commitment to war with Israel through proxies, not any stated commitment the ‘Palestinian cause’ or the Palestinian people that falls outside the scope of war with the Jews.