US, Israel act to stop Abbas quitting for fear of alternatives
The Obama administration and Netanyahu government are bending over backward to dissuade Mahmoud Abbas from going through with his decision to retire from public life both as chairman of the Palestinian Authority and head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which he now says is final, debkafile‘s Washington and Jerusalem sources report.
In closed meetings Monday, Nov. 16, the Palestinian leader tried to impress on visiting US senators that he was serious about quitting in the coming weeks. Asked what would happen after he was gone, Abbas said he doesn’t want to know.
US and American intelligence experts see Abbas being succeeded by his new deputy, Abu Maher Ghneim, who acted for 38 years as head of the Palestinian terrorist groups’ manpower and finances from his self-appointed exile in Tunis. Earlier this year, prime minster Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak authorized his entry to the West Bank for the Fatah convention, at Washington’s behest, although they were warned that the newcomer to Ramallah was a died-in-the wool rejectionist of peace diplomacy. He even opted to stay in Tunis to defy Yasser Arafat on the 1993 Oslo accords.
Now both the Americans and Israelis rue their decision, dismayed at the possibility of Abu Ghneim stepping into Abbas’ shoes.
Abbas himself recently reshuffled his security services and named himself supreme commander of all armed forces, which means that his successor would take over this function too, another nail in the coffin of peacemaking, as one American source glumly admitted to debkafile.
The Obama administration has therefore rallied to keep Abbas from stepping aside
Our sources report that Monday, he was this week promised a grant of$131 million to pay for four brigades that would double the size of his presidential security guard in Ramallah. If the Palestinian leader withdraws his resignation, US Gen.Keith Dayton will go straight into training the incremental troops. If not, the plan will be set aside.
Long familiar with Abbas’ great strength, i.e. his weakness, Netanyahu and Barak have often propped him up before and may be expected to chip in with a fresh batch of concessions for the Palestinians to bring him round.
However, neither the US nor Israel will countenance a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence. Netanyahu has said Israel would counteract to this step in kind, including annexations of West Bank territory and the suspension of existing accords.
Tuesday, Nov. 17, the European Union lined up with Washington to spurn a Palestinian request to recognize an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as “premature.”
Speaking for the EU, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said: “I would hope we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state but there has to be one first. So I think that is a bit premature… We would be ready to recognize a Palestinian state but conditions are not there as of yet.”