Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has decided to borrow a tactic from his predecessor, the master terrorist Yasser Arafat.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Abbas in Amman Sunday, April 7, to try and talk him out of launching what he is calling in briefings to Palestinian activists a “civil intifada (uprising)” without guns against Israel.
Kerry will try and hold Abbas to the pledge he gave President Barack Obama during his March 21 visit to Ramallah to abjure violent action so long as the United States actively promotes direct negotiations with Israel.
But Abu Mazen will wave this argument away. He will maintain he is out of patience and has set April 15 as the date for mass Palestinian street action to start and build up to accompany a preliminary US-sponsored meeting of Palestinians and Israelis scheduled to take place in mid-may in Turkey.
But this “intifada,” he will insist, will not go beyond mass protest marches, burning Israeli flags, pelting its security forces with rocks and Molotov cocktails, blocking West Bank highways, and staging collective hunger strikes in which schoolchildren will also take part for dramatic effect.
And indeed, for the past two weeks, he has been gradually fanning popular Palestinian unrest toward this climax,on one pretext or another.
The US Secretary will no doubt argue that any civil disturbances would quickly get out of hand in the tense climate pervading the Middle East.
His point will have been strengthened by the incident Wednesday, April 3 when Palestinians shooting guns and lobbing fire bombs staged their first organized attack in eight years on an Israeli army post just inside the southern border of the West Bank. The raiders, who came from the Palestinian village of Anabta, lost two men in the firefight with Israeli troops. One was captured when they fled the scene.
Shooting while talking, a classical strategy
While Kerry will maintain that simmering Palestinian violence would serve the ends of Syria, Hizballah and Hamas rather than their own interests, Abbas will counter that he can no longer hold the Palestinians down when the rest of the Arab world is on the march – either protesting against or battling its rulers.
He will protest that his job is to keep his people in the Arab flow – not on the sidelines.
But in fact, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Middle East sources, Abbas is adopting this course to replicate the maneuver his predecessor Yasser Arafat pursued profitably thirteen years ago.
In August 2000, when Arafat was invited by President Bill Clinton to sit down for talks at Camp David with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, US and Israeli intelligence both knew that the Palestinian leader had secretly finished his preparations for Intifida No. 2.
The Camp David encounter provided the cover story for the onset of the four-year Palestinian reign of blood and terror which, for the first time in history, pursued the tactic of suicide attacks predominantly targeting civilians – buses, schools, cafes, markets, malls and institutions – disrupting the life of a country and darkening is cities.
Of the 1,030 Israeli deaths caused by Arafat’s war on Israel, 70 percent were civilian, as were 82 percent of the 5,598 injured. They were the casualties of 138 Palestinian suicide attacks, 13,730 shooting incidents and about 450 Qassam launchings.
It took Israel another four years to start recovering.
The Palestinians “lost” 959 – of which 95 percent were self-declared “martyrs” – who died to murder Israelis.
Israel caught and detained 6,005 terrorists.
More than 360 Palestinians were killed by their own extremists.
That uprising saw a steep rise in the number of women, children and civilians volunteering or mobilized for violent attacks, including 292 Palestinian minors.
Although Clinton and Barak knew that Arafat's mind was set on war, they painted the Camp David meeting to their respective publics in upbeat colors as negotiations for peace – not an attempt to stave off his belligerent intent – which is what it really was.
Abbas takes a leaf out of Arafat’s textbook
Abu Mazen hopes to pull off a similar dual-track stratagem.
While orchestrating what he calls a non-violent intifada sans gunfire, he will pretend to follow the Washington guidelines laid down by John Kerry for joining the peace process, just as Arafat faked his cooperation in the early 2000s with the peace efforts of former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell.
Meanwhile, Abbas has gone for the high diplomatic ground on Jerusalem, one of the three core issues in dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis (along with refugees and boundaries). Even before facing Israel at the table, he is building his assets.
On Sunday, March 31, he signed an historic agreement in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in which the Palestinians acknowledged the monarch as the Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem. Abdullah was given authority over the Palestinian waqf (religious foundation) and accorded the status of representative on the Jerusalem question in all international forums and organizations.
By this ploy, Abbas has moved into position for posing at the projected peace talks as having made a grand Palestinian concession to Jordan of religious, diplomatic, legal and security responsibility for Temple Mount and the other Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
This posture is in fact mostly make-believe, because the Palestinians never owned any of those rights – only tried claiming them – and were therefore in no position to cede them.
Since every Israeli government has vowed that Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital will never again be divided, Abu Mazen hopes by his Jordanian ploy to detach historic Jerusalem from Israeli sovereignty and force the city’s repartition. The Palestinians would then have a chance of gaining East Jerusalem as their capital.
The Palestinian-Jordanian ploy – may head for confederation
Mahmoud Abbas may be able to pull off his sleight-of-hand ploy internationally. His offer to “give up” real estate he never owned may well be hailed in Washington and European capitals as an important Palestinian concession for peace, and even by some Israelis on the radical Left.
At the same time, the agreement Abu Mazen signed with Abdullah may serve as the starting-point for a broader plan which the Netanyahu government may find more palatable.
Five months ago, on December 27, 2012, debkafile's sources were the first to reveal that Jordan’s Abdullah and visiting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had discussed among other ideas bandied about between Washington, Jerusalem and Amman, a proposal to establish a confederation between the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
This conjoined entity would conduct the final-status peace talks with Israel.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly does not rule out the possibility that the Jordanian-Palestinian deal for transferring custody of Jerusalem’s holy sites to the king – if it is ever realized – may fit in eventually with that proposal.
At all events, Washington is maintaining the impetus for getting the peace dialogue back on track, as Obama promised Abbas.
On May 11, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report that representatives of Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA Chairman Abu Mazen will be brought together for the first time in two years by Secretary Kerry. Turkish officials will also be there.
This informal meeting is designed to be the starter gun for the resumption of proper negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Abu Mazen accuses Israel of “criminal responsibility”
Abu Mazen’s scheme for keeping up the heat on the conference was already underway on his home ground this week. A handy pretext fell in his lap on April 1, when Palestinian security prisoner Abu Hamadiya, 64, died of throat cancer in the Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. A decade ago, this Hamas militant was sentenced to life for plotting a multiple murder attack on a Jerusalem café.
Blaming Israel’s “negligence” for the death and demanding an international probe, Abbas set up “spontaneous” outbreaks of Palestinian street riots and hunger strikes in Israeli prisons.
Warders had to use tear gas to break up the disturbances. Six warders and three prisoners suffered ill effects from gas inhalation.
Abbas was evidently clearing the way for his demand for the release of hundreds of jailed Palestinian terrorists prior to peace talks.
He deftly used two incidents to put Israel in the wrong ahead of negotiations in Turkey, aiming charges of “criminal responsibility” in the deaths of the Abu Hamadiya and even the two Palestinian gunmen (!).
But he can hardly convince the Americans and Israelis he is capable of keeping the lid on the Third Intifada – and at the same time take part in bone fide peace talks – while Palestinians are encouraged to surge out of control on the streets and Palestinian gunmen are praised for attacking an Israeli military post.