Thursday, October 10, 2013

10-Oct-13: Inside the revolting PA, signs of more trouble ahead

PA president Abbas relishing the moment as he salutes newly-freed
convicted murderers, August 2013 [Image Source]
When Israel hands over yet another batch of convicted murderers, unrepentant and expecting to get a heroes' welcome in the Palestinian Authority towns and villages (that's due to happen on October 29), to whom are they going to be handed over?

Answer: to the people described in an incisive Khaled Abu Toameh article ["Is Abbas Losing Control Over Fatah?"] published just today on the Gatestone Institute site. He outlines the power struggle now under way within the Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PA. It's a struggle that 
raises questions about Abbas's ability to reach any agreement with Israel that would be acceptable to most Palestinians. What has been happening in Fatah lately is more than differences of opinion among the faction's top brass. Some Palestinians have gone as far as saying that the infighting marks the beginning of a revolt against Abbas's leadership.
Abu Toameh says the signs of serious Abbas trouble include:
  • "Fatah gunmen have returned to the streets of some West Bank cities and refugee camps are openly challenging Abbas's leadership."
  • A senior Palestinian security commander in Lebanon was dismissed this week by Fatah's Central Committee on a pretext. The likely real reason: he is suspected of forging an alliance with Mohammed Dahlan, Abbas' political nemesis who was himself expelled from Fatah two years in the wake of a "falling out" with Abbas.
  • Dahlan, now based in the United Arab Emirates, is thought by Abbas' people of maneuvering to displace the 78 year-old Abbas as head of the PA.
  • Palestinian Arabs in a Lebanese refugee camp angrily removed Abbas's portrait from their streets and public squares to protest the dismissal.
  • "Abbas has been working hard to prevent an all-out mutiny against his leadership. In the context of his efforts, Abbas dispatched one of his top aides, Azzam al-Ahmed, to Lebanon for urgent discussions"
  • Abbas' aid is now reported to have said: "Fatah is in need of a cleansing campaign".
  • And he faces trouble among feuding Fatah warlords in the West Bank. Bodyguards escorting Jibril Rajoub, the head of the PA's Football Federation and its Olympic Committee, and an especially loathsome senior figure in Fatah (see what we wrote about him on May 9, 2013 and July 26, 2012 among other posts), beat up an elected Fatah politician called Jamal ("Hitler") Abu al-Rub. Their fight arose from a heated debate over the anarchy and lawlessness currently reigning in Jenin and - importantly - who ought to be blamed for it. Abu al-Rub is from Jenin. After he was beaten up, gunmen issued a leaflet in Fatah's name warning Rajoub to not even think about coming back to Jenin. Abbas is said to be trying to clean this mess up. 
  • "Palestinians familiar with Fatah said that the recent tensions inside the faction were nothing compared to other and more serious rivalries that have not been made public. According to the Palestinians, these tensions may also be linked to a war of succession that has begun inside Fatah... The turmoil in Fatah is likely to have a negative impact on the peace talks with Israel, especially as Abbas faces growing criticism over his decision to return to the peace talks by many Palestinians."
Rajoub and Dahlan, as well as several additional Fatah insiders, are thought to be ready to pounce on the PA and Fatah leadership once Abbas is out of the way. We can expect the process to be tumultuous; these are not Westminster parliamentarians.

For those Israelis convinced that convicted Palestinian Arab terrorists, including the many murderers among them, ought to remain in prison until the completion of the terms to which they were lawfully sentenced, Khaled Abu Toameh's conclusion both enlarges the scale of the worry and reinforces the sense that a terrible mistake is being made:
Until recently, Abbas's critics used to insist that he does not have a mandate from his people to sign any peace agreement with Israel. The infighting inside Fatah shows that Abbas is also beginning to lose control over his own ruling faction.

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