A Widening Pan-Arab Front for Palestinian Leader Abbas’ Ouster

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has survived many attempts to force his ouster, but never before has he been prodded publicly by a major Arab publication.
This message was strongly conveyed by the English-language daily Saudi Gazette on Sept. 25. An editorial urged the Palestinian Authority and its chairman Abbas not to dismiss out of hand as a “new gimmick” the invitation extended by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for him to address the Israeli parliament.
This invitation, the paper’s editorial noted, was reminiscent of the one the late Israeli premier Menachem Begin extended to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Israel.
This eventually led to the Camp David agreement, which, “for all its shortcomings… demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible.”
The Saudi paper also mentioned Bill Clinton’s visit to the Palestinian Authority in 1998, which led to the amendment of the PLO charter and eventually to the Camp David 2000 summit between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
These two examples, said the Saudi article, showed that diplomatic visits on that level could change the course of history.
This message could not have appeared in a Saudi newspaper a year ago. It attests to the radical change in Riyadh’s long, hard-line attitude towards Israel (see DEBKA Weekly 724 of Sept. 16: Saudi Thumbs-down for Netanyahu’s Bid to Update 2002 Peace Initiative).
But it is also brings out into the open the existence of a concerted Arab initiative to force Abbas to resign in favor of a younger and more flexible Palestinian leader.
This initiative is led, DEBKA Weekly’s Middle East sources have learned, by four leading Arab rulers: Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Saudi Deputy Crown and Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
They have combined for a broad move to replace Abbas with his archenemy, Muhammed Dahlan, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who was expelled form Fatah in 2011 – as a step towards effecting a reconciliation between the rival Palestinian wings, Fatah (Ramallah) and Hamas (Gaza), and ahead of reaching out for a settlement of the Palestinian dispute with Israel.
This regional initiative has run up against the same obstacle as encountered by all the diverse peace initiatives launched in the past: Mahmoud Abbas and his stubborn refusal either to give way or to remove himself.
In the last fortnight, American and European diplomats have added their weight to the Arab initiative, but they all hit the same blank wall of an obdurate Abu Mazen.
To overcome the impasse, our intelligence sources have learned that two new options have been floated. One is a political putsch for his removal by the Palestinian Authority and Fatah party institutions; the other is a military coup.
Some influential Palestinian officials do not reject out of hand the possibility of Palestinian security units seizing power in Ramallah, announcing Abbas’ ouster, suspending the Palestinian Authority and installing a military junta in its place, led by a Palestinian general.

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