Palestinian Leader Underscores West Bank-Gaza Breach

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas this week reshuffled key security appointments and promoted himself to Commander of Chief of All Palestinian Armed Forces. This kept him busy while waiting for US Middle East envoy George Mitchell to finish discussing terms for their three-way summit in New York with President Barack Obama.

As we predicted, Abbas named Abu Maher Ghneim, the new Fatah central committee member he imported from Tunisia, his deputy and therefore heir apparent. By permitting Ghneim to enter the West Bank last month, Netanyahu helped Abbas place in line for the succession a hardliner and proponent of “armed resistance” against Israel.

Equally important, Abbas named Gen. Muhahed Faraj, 49, director of the General Intelligence service (the Palestinian branch for external intelligence equivalent to the Israeli Mossad).

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terror sources, Faraj, who has begun capitalizing on his reputation as a rising star in Ramallah, has led the hunt for Hamas networks in the West Bank. He is close to former Gaza strongman Muhammad Dahlan, who lost traction for losing the enclave to Hamas in its 2007 coup, and has good relations with Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman.

Abbas has also promoted the first key Fatah security official from Gaza to high office as director of Palestinian Military Intelligence. He is Gen. Nidal Abu Dohan, another friend of Dahlan.

This appointment signifies the further deepening of the rift between the Fatah-ruled West Bank and the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip notwithstanding strenuous Egyptian and Saudi efforts to patch up the quarrel. At the very least, both Arab powers want to see an ostensible representative Palestinian delegation sitting down at the table for US-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel.

Abbas has more appointments in store.

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