Saturday, January 16, 2016

How (and Why) Palestinian Leaders Scare the World - by Khaled Abu Toameh

...Abbas has perfected the art of financial extortion. Every Monday and Thursday, as it were, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president has threatened to resign and/or dissolve the PA. This tactic has a twofold aim: cold hard European and American cash, and a gaze directed away from the PA's turmoil.

Khaled Abu Toameh..
Gatestone Institute..
15 January '16..

What do you do when your home has become hell?

If you are Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, you divert attention from the mess as fast as possible.

For a start, Abbas is trying to scare the international community into believing that without increased pressure on Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) will be forced to resort to unilateral measures, such as attempting to create new "facts on the ground" in the West Bank.

Next, Abbas is threatening to renew the Palestinian call for convening an international conference for peace in the Middle East and to step up rhetorical attacks against Israel.

Finally, Abbas has perfected the art of financial extortion. Every Monday and Thursday, as it were, the PA president has threatened to resign and/or dissolve the PA. This tactic has a twofold aim: cold hard European and American cash and a gaze directed away from the PA's turmoil.

Abbas wants the world's eyes on Israel -- and Israel alone. That way, the fierce behind-the-scenes battle for succession that has been raging among the top brass of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank will stay far from the limelight.

This week, Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, announced that the Palestinian Authority was coordinating with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in order to create "facts on the ground" to establish a Palestinian state.

This announcement was designed to tighten the international screws on Israel. The threat to "create facts on the ground" was a direct message to the US and the EU that they had better push Israel farther -- and faster -- or the Palestinians would be left with no recourse but to build in Area C of the West Bank, currently under exclusive Israeli control.

Yet Palestinian building in Area C is not just a threat. In fact, and thanks to the financial and logistical aid of the EU, Palestinians have already begun building that project in some parts of the West Bank.

What the PA wants is the following response from the international community: "Oh my God, we must do something to salvage the peace process. We need to put even more pressure on these Israelis before matters get out of hand."

The PA seeks a solution imposed upon Israel by the international community. This has been quite clear for some time, but the PA spokesman's recent announcement leaves no room for doubt. Abbas has no incentive whatsoever to return to the negotiating table with Israel. Why negotiate when Western powers are prepared to do everything to see Israel brought to its knees?

As part of this strategy, Abbas last week renewed his call for an international conference to discuss "ways of solving the Palestinian cause." According to the PA president, the international community that has reached understandings that Syria, Libya and Iran should be able to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This is nothing but an Abbas scare-tactics redux. Radical Islam and terrorism, so we are to believe, will be conquered by solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The president of the PA desires to implant in the minds of the West a direct link between the Islamic State terror group (ISIS) and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Abbas might have done well to check in with his sources. ISIS and the other terror groups currently destroying the Arab world do not give a damn about Israeli settlements or checkpoints. Nor is a two-state solution on their docket. These groups have a different agenda -- to conquer the world and establish an Islamic empire. En route to achieving their aim, the Muslim terrorists will kill "apostates" and "infidels" including Abbas and other Arab leaders.

"President Abbas's call for an international conference reflects the state of confusion and wallowing he is in," remarked former Palestinian cabinet minister Hassan Asfour. "The appeal is designed to search for an unclear and jellied formula and it has no legitimacy." Asfour noted that there was no need for such a conference, in light of the fact that the UN already recognized a Palestinian state in 2012.

So what exactly is Abbas trying to achieve? For the most part, Palestinian political analysts are convinced that the eighty-year-old president, who is about to enter the eleventh year of his four-year term in office, is simply seeking to hold onto the reins of power. The best way to do so, they argue, is by keeping up the buzz about international conferences and potential Palestinian unilateral moves on the ground.

In order to run the Palestinian show until his last day, Abbas needs to divert attention from the battle of succession that has hit the spotlight in the past few days. Top Fatah officials have been pushing him to appoint a deputy president, in the hope of forestalling a power vacuum upon his departure from the scene for one reason or another.

These officials have long censured Abbas for running the PA as if it were his private fiefdom. Among the critics are Jibril Rajoub, Tawkif Tirawi, Mohamed Dahlan, Salam Fayyad and Yasser Abed Rabbo -- all of whom regard themselves as potential successors to his seat.

Meanwhile, Abbas's preferred candidate for deputy president appears to be none other than Saeb Erekat, the PLO's chief negotiator who was recently upgraded to the post of PLO Secretary-General. This choice, however, is not going down well with Fatah officials, many of whom have expressed their opposition to the attempt to pave the way for Erekat to become the next Palestinian president.

A direct link does exist, then, but it is not, as Abbas contends, one between ISIS and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The true direct link is between the urgency Abbas feels at home to prop up a crumbling empire and his intimidation of the international community. In other words, when Abbas feels the heat, Israel is thrown into the fire.


Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.

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