Day by day, Palestinian fury on the West Bank is stoked by one charge against Israel after another. The protesters of Hebron, Nablus and other West Bank towns and villages are in no mood to hear Israel’s version of the facts. Sunday, Feb. 24, Palestinian Authority officials alleged that Israeli mistreatment caused the death of a 30-year old Palestinian Arafat Jaradat in custody after taking part in rocking-throwing clashes with Israeli troops. Israel denied he was beaten and said he had died of heart failure. Israel’s forensic institute conducted an autopsy with a Palestinian physician in attendance with uncertain results. But the Palestinian street, demonstrating violently for the past week in solidarity with four Palestinian inmates on hunger strike, weren’t waiting. Tomorrow, there will be another trigger for protest and Israeli troops will disperse the rioters and stone-throwers with crowd dispersion measures.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials keep the heat up by accusing Israel of “murder, racism, and brutality.”
Clearly, Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his henchmen are prepared to risk matters getting out of hand on the West Bank.
debkafile examines their motives.
Abbas appears to count on reining in the violence whenever he decides it has exhausted its political usefulness. The Palestinian Authority chairman seems to believe that he only has to give the order for the seven special commando battalions subservient to the PA for the forces to go into action and restore order to the Palestinian street. But Western and Israeli military circles familiar with the situation in Ramallah think his calculus is flawed, because he is doesn’t seem to realize that parts of the PA commando force have established relations with Hamas, the rival group which rules the Gaza Strip.
This takes the Palestinian military structures into a period of uncertainty which recalls the early months of their second uprising (intifada) in 2000. It was hard then to make out which Palestinian units and security arms served which Palestinian strongman. The militias of the day, including the one under the command of Jibril Rajoub – a close Abbas aide today – divided their loyalties and their time between different Palestinian masters. At times, this was contingent on how much they were paid.
debkafile’s military sources estimate that if the current unrest is allowed to continue unchecked, Abbas will be swept aside by the turbulence. Faceless officers will take over and the force will break up into militias and the Palestinian Authority sink into anarchy.
Already Abbas’s relevance among the Palestinians at large is ebbing along with the welcome mat and donations extended him in most Arab capitals.
Even if Abbas does manage to squeeze another settlement construction freeze out of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, along with the release of jailed prisoners, and even revive the stalled flow of funds to the bankrupt Palestinian Authority, he will still face a tough impediment from the Gaza Strip.
To solve it, he would have to turn the clock back to November, 2012 and reverse a process launched then after the Israel Gaza Operation. The US, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, Hamas and Israel, struck a deal, which ended the operation with a ceasefire and boosted Hamas domestically and internationally by ending the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and promoting cooperation between the Palestinian fundamentalists and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Mahmoud Abbas clearly hopes that by fostering spiraling anti-Israel unrest on the West Bank, he can catch up with Hamas’s enhanced standing and recover a strong bargaining position for resumed talks with Israel in time for US President Barack Obama’s visit next month to Jerusalem and Ramallah. But he is skating on very thin ice.
This visit in any case may be postponed if Netanyahu fails to set up a post-election government coalition by March 20.