Oh, Nahbah! Is there anything you can't do?
American and Israeli officials shrugged off Abbas’s warnings last fall that he’d dissolve the Palestinian Authority, of which he’s president. The rais (boss) had so often made similar threats in the past that no one took him seriously.
Now, cats in the hood are getting ready for the Palestine Civil War
No one, that is, except some in Ramallah who started thinking that maybe, well into Abbas’ tenth year of a four-year term, the 80-year-old chain-smoker is finally thinking of mortality, retirement — or just a bit of rest.
Mohammed Dahlan, a Dubai-based former Gaza strongman who pulls West Bank strings from afar, raised his Abbas criticism a notch. Even top loyalists like long-time negotiator Saeb Erekat and intelligence chief Majid Faraj sounded like they were contemplating a leadership fight.
When Palestinian security forces arrested a top manager in Erekat’s office earlier this month, accusing him of spying for Israel, West Bankers speculated that it was orchestrated by Erekat’s rivals seeking to make him look bad.
But as whispers of a succession battle intensified, Abbas realized he risked losing his grip. In the last couple of weeks he gathered loyalists to assure them he’s going nowhere. He then started a campaign to rein in the terrorist wave he had unleashed in September but of which he’s clearly lost control.
Faraj, the intel chief, gave a rare interview to the New York-based Defense News this week, boasting he’d prevented 200 terrorist attacks and arrested 100 Palestinians. It signaled to outsiders that the PA is fighting terror, but at home the message was, hey, watch out. (Faraj didn’t say how many of the men he’d arrested were mere critics or political rivals.)
At the same time, officials in Ramallah leaked to reporters that they’re about to launch a UN campaign to fight Israel diplomatically.
These are staples of Abbas’ longtime tactics, which suggests he’s got full control of the reins again.
But, like it or not, he won’t live or rule forever.
Abbas has long avoided anointing a successor or naming a deputy. So who decides who’s next?
According to Palestinian law, the speaker of parliament would take over pending new elections. But the parliament hasn’t convened in years. And the current speaker is a member of Hamas, Abbas’ Islamist rivals.
In other words, no one in the West Bank knows how the next leader will emerge — and Israeli intelligence officials, whose entire job is to predict such things, have no idea either
When the time comes, the Fatah men who in the last few weeks started jockeying for position will duke it out for real. Such chaotic political fighting often leads to violence.
Once that violence ebbs, a new strongman will emerge.
But not a peaceful, democratic state of Palestine.