Since Mahmoud Abbas went to the UN for the Palestine Observer State status upgrade a month ago, nearly everything on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s list of ways to threaten Palestinians has been initiated. Notably: Haaretz reporting that “Israel may initiate a building drive in West Bank” and Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying there would likely be a breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation in the West Bank, and that would “undermine stability there.” Translation: the growth of settler violence, which continues to escalate on a daily basis.
Last week Abbas threatened to disband the Palestinian Authority next year (as Allison Deger reported). Abbas has done that before, several times actually. Now he says he’s throwing in the towel if settlements construction continues after Israel’s election in January. He said he might go to the International Criminal Court if there are not diplomatic negotiations to create a Palestinian state; and we already know he’s coordinating with Turkey to develop a legal strategy. How much of Abbas’s threats are calculated political gamesmanship remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, with unexpected flair, Abbas is now offering to hand over the PA keys to Netanyahu if there’s no progress. From Haaretz, Abbas: If stalemate continues after elections, Netanyahu can take back the keys to the West Bank :
“If there is no progress even after the election I will take the phone and call [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Abbas said. “I’ll tell him, ‘my dear friend, Mr. Netanyahu, I am inviting you to the Muqata [the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah]. Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys, and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority.”
Avigdor Lieberman is eagerly anticipating Abbas’s resignation. Haaretz:
“We are congratulating Abu Mazen [Abbas] for reaching the correct conclusion, that only after his disappearance from the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, it will be possible to renew the diplomatic process,” Lieberman said in a statement.
MK Lieberman continued: “We are eagerly anticipating a formal announcement issued by Abbas’ office regarding his retirement,” saying that there are many alternatives to the Palestinian president.
“Abbas remaining in power,” Lieberman said, “is precisely what will eventually bring Hamas and other radical Palestinian factions to power, as occurred in Gaza.”
Meanwhile, unprovoked attacks by Israeli military forces continue unabated in the West Bank, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted nine resolutions condemning Israel, and we’re left wondering “When is someone going to do something about it?” It’s more than ramped up rhetoric that leads me to think Abbas is more serious about his threat this time around. But more is at stake than ever, and somehow I don’t think it will come to his giving Netanyahu the keys to the West Bank, because, as has oft been repeated, he’s the most pliable leader the US and Israel could hope for.
But something else slipped out during Abbas’s interview. Haaretz:
“The Israeli government has taken 50 different steps since the UN move,” Abbas told Gal-On. “The Israeli military has started to raid Palestinian cities without coordinating with our security forces. They don’t ask permission and don’t even let us know in advance.”
The secretary-general of the PA presidency, Tayeb Abdul Rahim, who also attended the meeting, intervened and said that during the past three months Israel had arrested 200 members of the PA security forces, though most were released after a brief questioning.”
The arrest of 200 members of the PA security forces — that’s provocation. And it’s a trend I pointed out in this post last week, showing that Israelis were predicting a third intifada after days of provocation: Israeli forces going into supposedly Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, the arrests of PA officials, the raids on Palestinian towns targeting former members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and released prisoners.
Abbas says he won’t allow a third armed intifada, but what the provocation masks is the strong push for annexation coming from certain political factions in Israel that are only gaining power. That’s nothing new but those factions are mobilizing in the Israeli election campaign. So when Abbas says “If diplomatic stagnation continues after the Israeli election,” he’s referring to that rightwing political faction.
The ball is in Netanyahu’s court and with the growth of the annexation rightwing, he’s got a lot more than Abbas to worry about. Hold onto your hats, because this election could reach a tipping point.