Analysis: Palestinian leadership not immune to change

Analysis: Palestinian leadership not immune to change
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By Amer Sabaileh

Amer Sabaileh

Amer Sabaileh

The Palestinian leadership is facing many problems and conflicts not only with Israel in trying to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, but also facing major serious conflicts from within its ranks.

Intra-Palestinian squabbles are no longer along the Fatah-Hamas divide that define these conflicts, but now it is within the Fatah movement itself. Much of the tension began between Mohammed Dahlan the former Fatah security chief and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, followed by a conflict between former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and yet another Fatah senior leader Yasser Abed Rabbo. Meanwhile, Abed Rabbo, Dahlan, and Fayyad have been accused of meeting in secret with US Secretary of State, John Kerry in the UAE.

Many believed that Abbas was the ideal partner for the Americans to sign the peace plan known as ‘Kerry’s Plan’, Even though his official term expired in 2010, and is seen by some as illegitimate. Despite this, many western and Arab officials believe that Abbas is Netanyahu’s preferred partner, as he never misses a chance to back him up. Yet, things seems to be changing soon for Abbas especially after his many political failures, most importantly the failure to gain the minimum nine votes of the UN Security Council in his statehood bid.

There has been much discussion about the need to reconsider the global strategy in addressing the issues in Palestine. The peace process has once again collapsed, with power and authority further dissipating with the ongoing fragmentation of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas’ control over Gaza. In addition to this, there is the contradiction between American calls for democracy and a situation where Abbas is attempting to maintain control within his inner circle and family despite his expired mandate.

It must be noted, moreover, that this is developing in the context of an expansion and growth of new extremists groups linked to global terrorism, and the shifting balance of political power in the region, while many regional and Arab countries don’t see Abbas as a valid leader for the Palestinian people.

Many believe that with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in power in Egypt, Dahlan, who is a rival of Abbas’, and was kicked out of Fatah for alleged corruption, appears to be a better candidate for the newly changing power landscape in the region especially that Dahlan is clearly backed by the UAE and other Gulf and Balkan countries. Many security experts believe that Dahlan, despite the charges against him, is a far better leader at this time given his security background and the global anti-terror war being fought in the region and is expected to continue for many years to come.

The Arab Daily News

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In addition to this, the Palestinian leadership is facing numerous challenges. There is the rebuilding of Gaza, the need to reposition itself in a new regional system, the need to address the security situation in Palestine, as well as economic challenges while facilitating the economic development process. According the many regional experts, the main obstacle to any future improvement of the Palestinian situation is Netanyahu himself who has been quite obstructionist during any attempts to revive the peace process.

In the context of Israeli politics, while Dahlan certainly is not Netanyahu’s preferred option, some analysts are pointing to an apparent meeting between Dahlan and Avigdor Lieberman as an Israeli electoral boost, as some reports have suggested based on the idea of Dahlan as Palestinian leader popular in Israel. Meanwhile,any transition in the Palestinian leadership would need to be swift, as the growing divisions in Palestine could lead to a collapse that would usher a third intifada.

According to some western sources the new rivals to Abbas; Fayyad who is accepted by the Americans as a moderate, then  Dahlan who is looked upon as a security man, and then Abed Rabbo . The three are being thought of as a  guarantee to a safe and secured transition for Israel. Those same sources have also suggested that these leaders have the backing of the UAE and Egypt. Palestinian politics much like the region is currently fluid and shifty, and the coming months may bring many new developments, and potentially new faces. That said however, among these various challenges, the three new aspiring Palestinian leaders have a very tough challenge related to the relations with Hamas and if they would be able to convince the anti-Abbas movement to jump on their bandwagon.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh is a university professor and a leading Jordanian and Arab-affairs political analyst, he can be reached at amersabaileh@yahoo.com.

The Arab Daily News

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The Arab Daily News

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