After ditching another Middle East peace process, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), now 79, has turned his attention to preparing the way for a successor, while also working on his “diplomatic intifada” against Israel – and indirectly America – for launching next April.
(See DEBKA Weekly 619 of Jan. 17: Palestinians plan to join 63 international organizations for anti-Israel boycotts).
This week, our sources name Abbas’s candidate as Maj. Gen. Majid Faraj, Director of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service.
Abu Mazen wants to be sure that when the time comes, he will be replaced by a figure with the strength and competence to take over as unquestioned head of the Palestinian Authority. His choice of a uniformed candidate rather than a politician shows what he thinks of the Palestinian apparatchiks around him at his Ramallah headquarters.
At 48, Majid Faraj, from Bethlehem, has attained the reputation of strongman operating in the shadows behind the Palestinian leader. They have been trusted friends for ten years, ever since Yasser Arafat died in 2004. It was then that Abu Mazen spotted the young Palestinian officer who had climbed up the ranks from Preventive Security Organization’s Bethlehem district command to his promotion by Arafat to Palestinian operations chief.
Abbas plays musical chairs to make room for his successor
Abbas has since put in Faraj’s hands the keys to his administration’s foreign diplomatic and intelligence ties. Very few people in the region are aware that Maj. Gen. Majid Faraj controls the flow of contacts between Ramallah and the Obama administration in Washington, as well as with the Egyptian ruler Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and King Abdullah of Jordan.
In a word, Faraj fills the functions of Palestinian foreign and intelligence minister.
Yet Abbas has conferred on him yet another position of authority: Head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Organization-PSO. This gives Faraj control of the entire Palestinian intelligence establishment – foreign as well as domestic – and the seven security battalions operating on the West Bank as the PA’s military force.
With all the most powerful levers of government in his hands, Abu Mazen’s heir apparent is well armed to stare down any would-be political challengers.
And that is not all. He is also designated next Chief of Palestinian Police, with the incumbent, Maj. Gen. Hazem Atallah about to be kicked upstairs to the post of Interior Minister in place of Dr. Said Abu Ali.
Faraj’s close friend, Gen. Akram al-Rajoub, will take over as the next Director of Palestinian Military Intelligence.
Abu Mazen opens the door to Dahlan. Faraj shuts it
Abu Mazen’s trust in Majid Faraj is such that he gave him the job of healing the rift between him and his fiercest political foe, Muhammad Dahlan, who has left Ramallah and set up shop in Abu Dhabi in the company of a few trusted friends.
In recent weeks, our intelligence sources found Faraj in secret dialogue with Dahlan’s representative Samir Mashrawi at a villa in the Jordanian capital Amman.
This ended in a draft agreement for the resolution of the quarrel between Abu Mazen and Dahlan.
However, when Faraj brought the draft back to Ramallah, he advised Abbas not to sign it because, he said, it entailed too many political and security risks for his mentor.
Faraj then proceeded to sabotage the deal, which he himself had brokered, by arresting Rashid Abu Shbak, a key Dahlan loyalist on the West Bank, and charging him with corruption.
Hearing about this, Dahlan hit the ceiling and informed Faraj that the fence-mending process was over. His feud with Abu Mazen would be pursued with full force.