Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his February 8 Sharm al-Sheikh truce deal with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon look like being left behind by plans hatched by Abbas’ own Fatah to resume its terrorist campaign against Israel in mid-June – one month before Palestinian parliamentary elections. This is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terrorism sources.
The concatenation of the two dates tells the story.
Fatah has concluded that the Palestinian parliamentary elections of July 17 will give the Palestinian Islamic terrorist Hamas a landslide victory unless they are headed off.
“We have no intention of losing the Palestinian Authority leadership to Hamas,” a senior Palestinian source told DEBKA-Net-Weekly this week. “We can no longer leave things to chance, and especially not in Abu Mazen’s hands.”
Palestinian faction leaders, frustrated by Abu Mazen’s policy of appeasement toward Hamas, have decided to revive their war with Israel, convinced he is no longer in control of the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian street.
Fatah believes that the outbreak of bloody violence alone will put a stop to American and European steps to promote a democratic election. Preparations for war are underway in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to our military sources, Fatah-Tanzim, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front groups are stockpiling mountainous piles of weapons, ammunition, explosives and medical supplies as well as training a large intake of new recruits.
Fallout far and wide
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s predict the resumption of warfare to have the following effects on US, Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian policies:
A. President George W. Bush’s campaign to bring democracy to Iraq, Lebanon and Syria – boosted by hopes for Israeli-Palestinian peace — will be set back.
B. For the time being, the US president will have to abandon any notion of working through the Palestinians to achieve US-European cooperation in other parts of the Middle East, including Iraq.
C. Freezing Hamas out of the Palestinian electoral process and the resumption of terror will resonate in Lebanon and Iraq; Hezbollah will become anxious about suffering a similar fate, while Iraq’s Sunnis will be encouraged to press forward with their guerilla war against American forces.
D. Washington may coerce Ariel Sharon into going through with the pull-out from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank notwithstanding revived terrorist attacks. But there will have to be changes in the original blueprint, because the withdrawal will take place under fire and could become a bloodbath. For Sharon, who is riding high at the moment, evacuations would become a heavy political liability.
E. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah will suffer knocks to their prestige in the fallout from Palestinian terror. Both have heavily committed their security services to shepherding Palestinian reform and buttressing security efforts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Abbas isolated by his own people
Washington will suffer a rude awakening for ignoring expert advice against staking its plans for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement on Abu Mazen. For lack of real backbone, he is incapable of meeting any of the reform goals set by the international community, whether monetary, security or political
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Palestinian experts confirm that conditions in the Palestinian Authority are more chaotic today than during the free-for-all period of Yasser Arafat‘s last year. Arafat, at least, commanded the loyalty of Palestinian factional leaders. Abu Mazen is totally isolated, bereft of any supporters willing to back his leadership or help him find a way forward.
Even Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, minister for civic affairs, won’t lift a finger to pull the Palestinian wagon out of the mud. Jibril Rajoub, the West Bank warlord who holds the sinecure of Security Adviser to the PA Chairman, says he will now focus on his own political career. Prime minister Ahmed Qurie (Abu Ala) ignores Abu Mazen completely, while finance minister Salam Fayyad and internal security minister Nasser Yousef, over whom the Bush administration and Sharon have a measure of influence, are not on talking terms with him. Fayyad would have quit before were the Americans not holding him back.
Palestinian intelligence and security chiefs have turned their backs on Abbas and instead built up relations with the lawless armed factions, some of them terrorist groups, operating outside the Palestinian Authority.
A new Palestinian leader of a different caliber might still be able to turn things around.
But there is little chance of removing Abbas through the ballot slip and he shows not signs of going on his own.