The brewing war to succeed Mahmoud Abbas

The jockeying for the post-Abbas leadership is taking shape in a moment of political, economic, and internal crisis

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Ishtayeh (R) and President Mahmoud Abbas (L) at the swearing in ceremony of the new government

Daoud Kutab writes in +972, “It is rare in Palestinian politics that a president follows a prime minister. This is what happened this week, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas echoed the words of his prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, who in an interview with the New York Timeslast week warned of a “hot summer.”

“Abbas, who has been single-handedly opposed to any changes in security coordination with Israel, all of a sudden joined Shtayyeh’s chorus line, predicting “a difficult July and August,” referring to possible layoffs of members of the Palestinian security forces if the Palestinian government’s current financial troubles are not solved by the end of the summer.

“The oft-repeated justifications for Abbas’ reluctance to make changes to security coordination with Israel include the preservation of the Palestinian government — as well as self-protection. But the fact that the prime minister, who is a member of Abbas’ own Fatah movement, was ahead of him on the issue forced Abbas to take to Twitter and state that, indeed, he would lay off security personnel in order to reduce the cost of governing.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presides over a meeting 

“This is also meant as a message to the Israelis and the Americans, that the next few months might witness a violent escalation in the occupied territories. Gunfire broke out between Palestinian forces and the Israeli army deep in the city of Nablus Tuesday morning, which Israel is forbidden to enter — at least not without pre-coordination with its Palestinian counterparts. The message was clear: Palestinians will no longer accept Israeli incursions. The Palestinians should not address their message to the army, however. Israeli military officials are said to be advising the political establishment to ease up on Palestinians, so as to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian government.”…

“While the size and budget of the Palestinian security force is of importance to Israel and the U.S., what is of special significance is the internal conflict within the Palestinian leadership. A series of recently-leaked documents revealing that Abbas had secretly approved requests for major retroactive pay raises to government ministers put the president in an embarrassing position. The leaks also exposed that a key minister still serving in the current PA government had received bribes, a case which Abbas has remained silent on despite documented proof. The message behind the two leaks is also clear: before you ask others to help you out financially, clean up your own financial mess and the corruption in your ranks.” (more…)

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