Abbas Wants Israeli Concessions to Buy Reconciliation with Hamas

Mahmoud Abbas has good reason to rejoice over Ehud Olmert’s strange celebration of the Hamas victory in Gaza as “a new peace opportunity,” especially as the prime minister brings this message to his White House talks with President George W. Bush Tuesday, June 19.
The rest of the West is lamenting the fact a jihadist Islamic terrorist organization has acquired rule over a territory for the first time.
Abbas is making hay. His Fatah government installed in Ramallah Sunday, June 17, is already getting a shower of direct Western aid. The European Union has added its usual two bits of advice for Israel to add its support. The Palestinian leader has translated this advice into a list of extortionate concessions, which Israel previously denied as opening the door to suicidal terror in its cities.
Abbas means to demand the massive release of the most dangerous Palestinian security prisoners, including multiple murderers, and the sweeping removal of the West Bank checkpoints which screen and intercept potential bombers.
He was quick to grasp that Olmert in this mode will be openhanded enough to give him a fresh lease of life in the form of concessions to buy his passport to credibility in Palestinian eyes. He will then have the leverage he needs for his next move – not a war to prevent Hamas domination of the West Bank, but to the contrary, reconciliation with the jihadists of Gaza. He is gearing up to establish another Palestinian unity government, one which endorses Hamas as masters of Gaza and grants him wall-to-wall approval at the top of the Palestinian tree instead of a flop in Gaza.
A serious obstacle to this ambition, the presence at his side of the ex-Gaza strongman Muhammed Dahlan, the object of Hamas’ abhorrence, as national security adviser, is about to removed. The inquiry commission Abbas announced Monday to probe the Gaza fiasco will take care of that.
In the meantime, the 11 ministers he named to his emergency cabinet in Ramallah Sunday, June 17, are mostly nonentities, except for the pro-Western prime minister, Salim Fayyed, who is trusted in Washington and Brussels with aid funds. The portfolios are available for returning Hamas ministers, including the prize bait of the interior ministry which controls Palestinian security forces.
That Abbas was building a facade was obvious from his choice of interior minister: the 80-year old pensioned-off general Razek Yahya, who lives in retirement in Amman and is clearly a stopgap. Had he intended to put up serious resistance to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, Abbas would have installed a charismatic military leader with operational qualifications.
As for the Western aid funds about to pour into Ramallah, Abbas will not invest the cash in a security force capable of taking on Hamas, because not a single soldier will be sent into battle against the Islamist group, any more than he sent his Presidential Guardsmen into action to save Gaza from Hamas domination last week. For his needs, the force built by the Americans will suffice. Aid funds will be used to cover the wages of the Palestinian Authority security personnel remaining in the Gaza Strip under Hamas rule and preserve their loyalty.
debkafile‘s Israeli military sources with long experience of Palestinian dealings say this is a typical formula, familiar from the aftermath of the 1983 Oslo accords: Fatah officers will survive in Gaza by serving two masters, Abbas and Hamas, and drawing salaries from both.
The rampage his security forces conducted under Col. Tawfiq Tirawi against Hamas activists and institutions in the last three days is described as no more than token action to gain Abbas an extra bargaining chip against Hamas. Once a deal is struck, Hamas will be reinstated on the West Bank as before.
Abbas’ candidate to replace Dahlan as his number two is Jibril Rajoub, former chief of the West Bank Preventive Security Service and Dahlan’s old enemy, who gets on well with Hamas. He has been designated Abbas’ lead negotiator, debkafile‘s sources disclose, for the reconciliation talks with Hamas, which are due to start in a couple of months after the dust settles in Gaza.
Rajoub is already doing some spadework in Cairo. He has advised Egyptian leaders not to cut of their ties with Hamas, after pulling out their diplomatic and military missions from Gaza last week, but to work with the Hamas’ “moderate” wing and the “right people” in Fatah as future power-sharing partners.
So why is the Israeli prime minister so pleased with the Gaza episode? And what blinds him to Abbas’ manipulations for consolidating Hamas’ grip on Gaza, ensconcing Iran and Damascus on Israel’s border, and strengthening Hamas’ position on the West Bank and in Palestinian government?
debkafile‘s sources report that Olmert hopes his Gaza line will make Israelis and Americans forget his blunders in supporting Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, his permission for the Jan. 2006 Palestinian general poll which brought Hamas to power through the ballot and his mismanagement of the Lebanon war last summer.
He will argue that his policies will eventually triumph in the Middle East if he is allowed to pursue them to the finish.

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