When US Secretary of State John Kerry meets Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) Monday, April 8, after flying in from Turkey, he will try and talk him out of launching what Abbas is calling in briefings to Palestinian activists a “civil intifada (uprising)” against Israel without guns. It is scheduled to April 15 on the eve of Israel’s national Day of Remembrance for its War Dead and Independence celebrations.
Kerry will remind Abbas of his pledge to President Barack Obama when they met in Ramallah on March 21 to abjure violent action while the United States is actively promoting direct negotiations with Israel.
Abbas will maintain that his “intifada” is nonviolent – consisting “only” of mass protest marches, burning Israeli flags, pelting its security forces with rocks and Molotov cocktails, blocking West Bank highways, and staging collective hunger strikes.
debkafile reports that for the past two weeks, on one pretext or another, Abbas and his lieutenants have been fanning popular Palestinian unrest toward a climax planned to build up as an accompaniment to the first Israeli-Palestinian meeting which the US Secretary is trying to set up for mid-May in Turkey.
Kerry will no doubt warn him that even a civil disturbance may quickly get out of hand in the tense climate pervading the Middle East and benefit radical Syria, Hizballah and Hamas rather than the Palestinians’ own interests.
Abbas will counter that he can no longer keep the Palestinians in check when the rest of the Arab world is on the march – either protesting against or battling its rulers – and his job is to keep his people in the Arab flow – not on the sidelines (not to mention diverting them from protests against his own rule).
But in fact, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Middle East sources reported in its latest issue, Abbas has decided to take a leaf out of the shooting-while-talking textbook which brought his predecessor Yasser Arafat fame, fortune and power thirteen years ago.
In August 2000, when Arafat was invited to Camp David by President Bill Clinton for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, US and Israeli intelligence both knew he was ready to go with Intifida No. 2, the first ever suicide jihad dedicated to killing civilians.
Nevertheless, Clinton and Barak painted the Camp David meeting to their respective publics as peace negotiations – not an attempt to stave off the Palestinian leader’s belligerent intent – which is what it really was.
Abu Mazen hopes to pull off a similar dual-track stratagem.
Although he calls his intifada nonviolent, he will unleash a wave of rowdy disruptions to grab front pages and extra leverage at the US-sponsored dialogue with Israel, while pretending to play ball with John Kerry, in exactly the same way that Arafat feigned cooperation with the peace efforts of former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell.
Abbas does not need to suicide bombers or gunmen. Any violent occurrence will serve to cast the blame on Israeli security authorities and so further inflame the disorders.
Israel was given a foretaste of these tactics Monday April 1, when Abu Hamadiyeh, 64, who was serving a life sentence for attempted multiple murder, died of throat cancer while under treatment at an Israeli hospital. Mahmoud Abbas immediately seized on this death to lambaste Israel with accusations of “criminal negligence.” Thousands of Palestinian prisoners rioted and went on hunger strike. Calm was only restored with the help of tear gas.
The Palestinian leader is on the lookout for more fodder to feed his propaganda mill in the coming weeks. But he can’t promise to keep the lid on the flames he is stirring up. Neither he, John Kerry nor Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can be sure that some untoward incident at some point won’t precipitate Abbas’s “civil intifada” into a dangerous spiral of unbridled violence.