Palestinian Developments That Could Affect Israel
By Sarah Ann Haves
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House this week in his first official visit. The purpose of the meeting is to revive talks in the Middle East. Prior to this visit, Abbas and other Palestinian officials have been raising questions about the future of the Palestinian leadership. There have also been private conversations between the Trump Administration and the Palestinians in closed-door sessions which have had positive results for the Palestinians.
According to Middle East analyst Avi Issacharoff, “”They are optimistic because this administration is not what they expected. They expected worse. It is much better than they had in mind.”
Issacharoff thinks that Israel wants to continue negotiating with Abbas in the future, not seeing any other viable leader coming forth in the ranks of the Palestinians. Though he is 82, with a background as a heavy smoker, Abbas continues to function as the leader of the Palestinians, despite rumors of a deteriorating medical condition.
As a first step in Trump promoting the peace process, he is determined to see a conflict-ending Israeli-Palestinian deal, encouraging Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet face to face. In this context, the Palestinians expect the White House to pressure Abbas to renew talks, while also putting pressure on Netanyahu to offer the Palestinians concessions. Trump has been developing the concept of an Israeli-Palestinian-Arab summit. He has been meeting with leaders of Arab nations to encourage them to reach a regional peace deal with Israel within the context of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
|Trump [wants] a regional
peace with Israel [out of]
Meanwhile, a current rift between the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza is occurring as both sides look towards the future. Great uncertainty, according to Issacharoff, is causing political maneuvering. “We are in the era of the ‘day before’ and the ‘day after’ Mahmoud Abbas. Everyone in the Palestinian arena are wondering what will happen after Abbas.”
Issacharoff, who often speaks to Palestinian officials, says that he believes there will not be new Palestinian Fatah elections for another leader if Abbas steps down from power. He claims that the Fatah Central Committee would be the ones to select a future successor.
Recently, Marwan Barghouti, a convicted murderer and terrorist, who was one of the violent activists involved in the Second Intifada, wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times. The Times described him as a Palestinian leader and a Parliamentarian. After an international outcry, The Times later clarified their omission of his criminal record. In his article, Barghouti declared a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in an attempt to gain relevance within internal Palestinian politics, and to increase his influence on the Palestinian street.
Issacharoff says that Barghouti initiated the hunger strike to gain more attention from the Palestinian leadership. He thinks of himself as the right candidate to succeed Abbas. “His friends and colleagues from the Central Committee don’t think the same. He has no supporters.”
In February 2017, Barghouti failed to secure a position as Deputy Chair to the Palestinian Authority (PA), a motion which Abbas blocked. Not satisfied with the way he was treated, Barghouti decided to lead the current hunger strike, which began on April 17, with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners participating. Palestinian leaders have warned that a new Palestinian Intifada could occur if prisoners do not get their demands met.
In the long term, Issacharoff thinks if the hunger strike is successful, Barghouti could gain a place of leadership among the Palestinian people and the prisoners.
Disruptions in Palestinian society, including days of rage, are expected to occur this week, with demonstrations and a general strike likely in the West Bank. Depending on the outcome, it could put pressure on Abbas to recognize Barghouti’s influence within the Palestinian population.
Issacharoff explains that if Barghouti can make a real impact it will mean something. “The strength is the Palestinian street, whether he will be able to send thousands of people to the streets or not… If he doesn’t succeed in doing that, it means he failed.”
In the meantime, Israel is not expected to release Barghouti from prison, “not in the coming months; not in the coming years,” according to Issacharoff.
The greatest concern for Israel about the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza are the ultimatums being issued by Hamas leaders towards the PA, and by Abbas towards the Hamas leadership. Abbas has already threatened that either Hamas passes its authority to the Fatah Central Committee in Ramallah or the PA will disengage from Hamas.
This would entail Abbas ordering the PA to stop paying water and electricity bills, as well as medical payments for the people of Gaza. While Abbas had made threats in the past, which have not developed into practical action, this time his declarations are being taken seriously. Reportedly, Hamas has been receiving millions of shekels in taxes from the Gaza people, but not using the money to pay for the population’s practical needs.
Issacharoff stated what might happen as a result of this in-fighting: “We are going to see some very hectic weeks while we are having both sides standing and holding to their positions. And, the people of Gaza are really suffering from the results of this political war.”
could develop into a Hamas
war against Israel…
The Fatah-Hamas political war could develop into a Hamas military war against Israel, which both Israeli and U.S. officials have been warning about for weeks.
Issacharoff hopes Israel will not witness such a war. “There is a fair chance that following the deterioration of this situation in Gaza, what will happen is that we will see Hamas trying to sneak out of this situation.”
He doesn’t see an immediate war developing, but Issacharoff sees something happening gradually with Hamas shooting missiles into Israel, and the Israelis responding with strength. “It’s a possibility. It’s a scenario. It is a very realistic one.”
The hope is that either Fatah will continue to pay Gaza bills in order to keep the population from revolting against Hamas, or Hamas will negotiate some kind of concession to satisfy the PA. “Otherwise, it doesn’t look good for Israel or the Palestinians.”
In related news, Hamas is expected to issue a new political charter within the next two weeks to gain favor with the Egyptian government. The biggest change will be that Hamas will try and disconnect itself from the Muslim Brotherhood which has been working against the current Egyptian regime. In the old charter, Hamas was satisfied to be seen as part of the Brotherhood. Hamas is now attempting to show the Egyptians that it is a genuine and independent Palestinian movement in Gaza.
While Hamas has agreed to the concept of the 1967 border being the foundation for a Palestinian state, this is a political maneuver and not a dramatic change on the part of the Hamas government. There are no indications they would be satisfied with that result, as they still consider all of Israel as Palestinian territory. This is also true of the PA. It is the reason that Netanyahu insists that Abbas recognize Israel’s rights as a Jewish State in any future negotiations.
Hamas leaders continue to say they will struggle against the state of Israel, not recognizing its existence, and not in favor of any kind of peace process. This is why Israeli leaders are preparing for another round of hostilities with Hamas, closely watching Gaza for what might lead to a conflagration this summer that would disrupt the current quiet on Israel’s southern border.
“He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ “ Deuteronomy 20:3-4
(c) 2017 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.