The Frontrunner in the Palestinian Presidential Race Is a Danger to Israel and His Own People

October 16, 2020 | Michael Milstein
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Next month, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, will turn eighty-five. Abbas, currently in the sixteenth year of his four-year term, is a heavy smoker, reportedly in poor health, and has made no arrangements for a successor. Among those senior members of his ruling Fatah party who are vying to position themselves to assume his post in the event of his death is Jibril Rajoub—whom Michael Milstein believes is most likely to triumph in the succession struggle:

Rajoub is solidifying his position by inciting against Israel, calling for the nullification of all agreements, advancing the peace talks between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Hamas terrorist organization, and promoting a model of “popular resistance”—fighting against Israel mainly with rioting and civil unrest. This strategy, Rajoub insists, will facilitate cooperation with Fatah’s long-time rival Hamas and will be received with understanding and even sympathy in the international arena.

Israel must remain vigilant and cautious, and refrain from acting as a kingmaker by dabbling in internal Palestinian politics, which it has done before to disastrous results.

[Instead], Israel should . . . first, use every possible channel—secretly through external mediators and [openly] via the media—to make the situation clear to Rajoub himself and to the upper echelons of the PA, and to the Palestinian public. They must understand what will come to pass if Rajoub’s inciteful slogans are indeed translated into action.

Secondly—and more importantly—Israel must work to help end the acute crisis within the PA that began on May 19, [when Abbas formally renounce security cooperation with the IDF], which acts as a fertile ground for extremist ideas and actions.

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