Mahmoud Abbas, the "illegal" chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA), faces very imminent threats to his life, according to Middle East expert Prof. Rafi Yisraeli.
In an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva, Yisraeli notes the complexity of Abbas's relations with US President Barack Obama, whom Abbas met Monday in Washington DC, and the balancing act he is playing in peace talks with Israel.
According to Yisraeli, Arab leaders are limited in their options of dealing with Israel, for "those who approached us (to sign treaties) were murdered or threatened with murder." He adds that Abbas "wants to live, and won't put himself in danger."
The tension between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas, which runs Gaza, presents a very real danger to Abbas, remarks the professor. Noting the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was killed in 1981 after signing a peace treaty with Israel, Yisraeli comments "Sadat was killed by people similar to Hamas."
Commenting on regional processes in which the "Arab Spring" has seen Arab regimes such as Egypt and Jordan deal with threats of Islamist takeovers, Yisraeli notes that Abbas, who is not particularly religious, has taken note of the danger.
"Abbas sees these things around him. He said he wants to quit, but apparently there's enough temptation to staying in power to convince him to continue," remarked Yisraeli.
"Abbas is an illegal leader"
An additional problem faced by the PA chairman is that his term in office ended in January 2009, raising questions as to his legitimacy.
Yisraeli reminds that Abbas has remained in office for two terms since the 2006 parliamentary elections, essentially making his holding of power illegal. That position gives Hamas an advantage in claiming a mandate from the masses.
Yisraeli assesses that only financial threats from the US to pull its funding from the PA, which stands at $440 million in 2014, would pressure Abbas to advance peace talks. However, he notes that America would not take such an action because it would benefit Hamas, and Abbas "knows the limitations of US power, and therefore can create tension with the West."
Abbas's threats to take unilateral actions for recognition at the United Nations (UN) are nothing more than bluster, according to Yisraeli, who comments that UN recognition will not fund Abbas, or establish a state for him.
Knowing the limitations of his alternatives, Abbas "is trying to maneuver, to preserve the American money and continue refusing," remarks Yisraeli. Abbas has consistently and adamantly refused to recognize Israel as the Jewish state, a major sticking point in the peace talks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has called Israel's demand to be recognized as a Jewish state "a mistake." However, Yisraeli argues that Obama's administration wouldn't press Israel to give up on this demand, given Obama's previous public statements supporting the demand for mutual recognition.