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Muhammad Shtayyeh: Profile of the new Palestinian Prime Minister

Maurice Hirsch and Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
 Muhammad Shtayyeh: 
Profile of the new Palestinian Prime Minister
By Maurice Hirsch, Adv. and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Since 2007, the position of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister has been held by a succession of so-called "technocrats" that were not seen as being openly aligned with either Fatah or Hamas.

Potentially signaling a deepening of the rift between Fatah and Hamas, and after his decision to dissolve the Palestinian Parliament (that had not functioned for 12 years), PA Chairman and head of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, has appointed Muhammad Shtayyeh - a member of Fatah's Central Committee - to replace Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, the latest of the "technocrats."

Over the years,
Palestinian Media Watch has exposed a number of statements by Shtayyeh, which show that he endorses terrorists as freedom fighters, and encourages the use of "all means" in the struggle against Israel.

Like many others, Shtayyeh believes that Palestinian terrorists, including terrorists and murderers imprisoned in Israel, are not terrorists but rather freedom fighters, or as he terms it - "freedom seekers":

"The homeland is more precious than a human being for us. Our brothers that are in the prisons, the 6,500 prisoners - why did they go to prison? Because they wanted to sacrifice themselves for Palestine. Honestly, [Israel's] false claim and distorted picture that these people are terrorists - these people, to put it very succinctly, [belong to] a people that is under occupation that is fighting the occupying state. When Britain occupied America, in short, the US [was] claiming and saying that it freed its land from the British colonialism. All of the states that were under occupation - international law allows them to fight this occupation. Therefore, these prisoners are 'freedom seekers' and we are with them. These prisoners defended the dignity of their land and human dignity."
[Official PA TV, April 29, 2017]

Based on this belief, and on the belief that "Military action seeds, and political action reaps," Shtayyeh has praised terrorist murderers such as Abu Jihad who orchestrated the murder of at least 125 Israelis and Abu Iyad who planned the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and he has stated that Palestinians have an "obligation" to "oppose the occupation through all possible means" - a Palestinian euphemism that includes the use of violence and terror against Israel.

Considering this approach, and having said that "
the [Fatah] Movement opposes making any accusation of terror against Palestinians in any form," it is not surprising that Shtayyeh rejected the notion that Hamas should be condemned as a terrorist organization by the UN.

Muhammad Shtayyeh: "Now there is a proposed [resolution] at the UN condemning the Hamas Movement. From this podium we condemn this resolution, because under no circumstances will we agree to any Palestinian organization being defined as a terrorist organization. We will not agree! Because today it is Hamas, tomorrow [Islamic] Jihad, two days from now Fatah, and so on. We know the story. Our disagreement [with Hamas] is internal, but under no circumstances will we agree to Hamas being condemned."
[Official Fatah Facebook page, Dec. 2, 2018]

On the subject of Israeli-Palestinian relations, Shtayyeh has stressed that Fatah does not recognize Israel: 

"The Fatah Movement never demanded that Hamas recognize Israel. To this moment, Fatah does not recognize Israel. The topic of recognition of Israel has not been raised in any of Fatah's conferences."
[Official PA TV, Topic of the Day, March 26, 2017]

Shtayyeh has further emphasized that "the Zionist project is colonialist and has no connection to Judaism" and that "religion was only one of the excuses for this project, which merited the sponsorship of the colonialist countries." Previously Shtayyeh had been among the first senior Palestinian officials to say that retracting PA recognition of Israel "is an option under discussion." On a different occasion, Shtayyeh added:

"We will reformulate our relations with the occupation and the agreements signed with it, which it does not keep at all. If Israel does not keep them, why should we keep them? Therefore, based on the PLO Central Council's decisions, we will reexamine the security, political, and financial relations with Israel. It is our obligation to protect our land and people and to oppose the occupation and its mechanisms through all possible means, and we will support all global movements that boycott the occupation.'"
[Ma'an, independent Palestinian news agency, Feb. 2, 2016]

On the subject of the Palestinian refugees, Shtayyeh has said:

"The continuation of the American and Israeli attempts to erase the refugees' issue and Jerusalem from the table will lead the Palestinian leadership to return to the starting point, which demands a political solution on the basis of historical Palestine, and not just a state in the 1967 borders."

and that:

"[Neither] America nor any other will ever succeed in erasing the refugees' issue. We will never bend to extortion and will never concede the right to return."

The official PA daily further summarized Shtayyeh's comments, reporting that he "warned against an attempt by Israel to redefine a refugee in coordination with the American Congress, and to cap the number of refugees at 40,000 (apparently referring to US legislation to redefine who are considered Palestinian refugees -Ed.). He said that all of these American attempts are meant to please its ally, Israel, and to implement the first part of what is called 'the deal of the century' (i.e., US President Donald Trump's as yet unpublished Middle East peace plan)."
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 27, 2018]

On the subject of the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem, Shtayyeh said that "transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem means the end of the two-state solution and the end of any future negotiations." [WAFA, official PA news agency, Jan. 18, 2017]

Like many other PA and Fatah officials, Shtayyeh denies the historical Jewish connection to Israel, and has even said that Jesus was the "first Palestinian," and that Israel "fabricates" historical graves. Shtayyeh also praised UNESCO's decision from 2016 that denied the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and referred to it only as a 'Muslim holy site" saying:

"The latest UNESCO resolutions have torpedoed the excuses for talk about their right to a "Jewish state," and showed that the Jews do not have a historical right to the land of Palestine."
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 28, 2016]

At this stage, it is unclear how long Shtayyeh will serve as the PA Prime Minister. In principle, Abbas' decision, from December 2018, to dissolve the defunct Palestinian Parliament was accompanied by a commitment to hold general elections in the PA within six months. However, elections of this kind have only been held twice in the 25-year rule of the PA and the date of these upcoming elections has yet to be announced. Abbas himself has been Chairman of the PA for 15 years, despite the provisions of PA law that limit the term of the PA Chairman to four years.

Accordingly, on the assumption that Shtayyeh will fill his new position for the foreseeable future, it is not unreasonable to assume that the PA under his leadership will continue its practices of supporting terrorism and using it as a means to achieve the PA's political goals. It is even possible that Shtayyeh will try to reevaluate the PA's position regarding its relations with Israel. While he will potentially declare, in English only and for the consumption of the international community alone, that he supports the so-called "two state solution" it is clear that he himself does not recognize Israel's right to exist.
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