Mohammed Dahlan
Mohammed Dahlan Flash 90

The Palestinian Arabs will finally go to the polls again next month to elect a parliament, after which an election for the Palestinian presidency would take place at the end of June. At least that was the intention until now. However, new obstacles have emerged that could again delay or even cancel the elections.

The parliamentary elections in the areas under Palestinian rule were scheduled for May 22 but could be suspended again. This is due to internal Palestinian divisions and a split in President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

Mahmoud Abbas, who has been president for 16 years, was elected for a four-year term in 2005 but in 2021 is still residing in his headquarters in the Muqatta in Ramallah.

The President of the Palestinian Authority is immensely unpopular among Palestinian Arabs living in the areas under PA control. This has mainly to do with Abbas' corruption and that of his family clan. The millions of dollars and euros the PA receives annually in foreign aid largely disappear into the private bank accounts of the people around Abbas, which is why he has earned the nickname "the thief." Ordinary Palestinian Arabs have hardly benefited from the massive foreign aid the PA receives annually.

Political games about Jerusalem

Abbas is now hiding behind claims that Israel is responsible for delaying the decision to allow East Jerusalem candidates to run in the PA elections. In the previous elections in 2005, only 5,000 Palestinian Arabs from East Jerusalem voted for a candidate from the rest of Judea and Samaria, but were not allowed to register as candidates themselves for the Palestinian Authority parliament.

This is a purely political issue because the status of Arab Jerusalem would only be determined in talks for a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Arabs in that part of Jerusalem are in possession of a blue Israeli ID card which gives them the same rights as Israeli citizens except for participating in national elections.

Riots at the Damascus Gate

In recent days, Fatah has organized massive and violent riots at the so-called Damascus Gate Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Officially, according to the PA, those riots were about Israeli control of the Temple Mount and the al-Aqsa Mosque. This is an argument that has always been used to increase tensions in Jerusalem's Old City.

However, behind these claims is a completely different issue.

Rift in Fatah

Abbas's Fatah party has almost completely disintegrated because of the battle over who will succeed the nearly 86-year-old President.

Abbas is not in good health and recently flew to Germany for medical treatment. No details were provided as to the nature of Abbas's health condition, but the impression was given that this was only a routine examination.

However, that seems unlikely because there are good hospitals in Israel and Jordan where Abbas could easily receive private treatment, as did Saeb Erekat, the PLO chairman who passed away at Hadassah hospital in Ein Kerem in Jerusalem recently. Erekat, who had undergone a lung transplant several years ago eventually succumbed to the Corona virus, but his family was full of praise for the treatment he received in Hadassah.

Divisions in Fatah and threat from Hamas

The real reason Abbas would like to postpone the elections again is the divisions in Fatah and the threat of Hamas' re-emergence in Judea and Samaria, the so-called 'West Bank'.

The Israeli army (IDF) has been in the process of arresting Hamas members who engaged in inflammatory and terrorist activities in PA-controlled areas for more than two weeks. For Hamas, this is the opportunity to seize power in Judea and Samaria, something they wanted to do in 2005 when free elections were first held in areas under PA rule, with the exception of Jerusalem.

Mohammed Dahlan

In fact, three parties have now emerged within Fatah. The official list is headed by Mahmoud Abbas and his clan. The other list has as leader Mohammed Dahlan, the exiled Fatah leader who now lives in Dubai, while a third list is headed by jailed Tanzim terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti.

Dahlan has always been seen as a threat by PA leader Abbas because he is immensely popular among large groups of Palestinian Arabs, particularly in Gaza. The PA president eventually found a way to get rid of Dahlan and intimidated him to the point that the Fatah leader decided to flee to Dubai where he became a security adviser to the government. In that position, he also meddled in the war in Yemen and reportedly was one of the driving forces behind the so-called Abraham peace accords between Israel and three Arab Gulf States.

Dahlan, who is fluent in Hebrew after he spent time in Israeli prisons, worked mainly with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and his influence in the Arab Gulf states could have been decisive in the success of the negotiations between Israel and the three Gulf states.

A problem with Dahlan's candidacy could be that he no longer lives in Israel, but he does have two foreign passports from Balkan states.

Terrorist Marwan Barghouti as a candidate for PA presidency

Another favorite for Abbas's succession is Marwan Barghouti, the former leader of Fatah's Tanzim militias. Barghouti has been sentenced to four life terms and another 40 years in an Israeli prison where he learned fluent Hebrew. He was found guilty by an Israeli court for his role in the murders of five Israelis and should, in theory, never be released again.

From prison, however, Barghouti is still involved in political activities and previously submitted his candidacy for the Palestinian Presidency.

Weak position for Abbas

What is certain is that of these three candidates, Abbas has the worst chance of being re-elected and not just because of his age of nearly 86 years. The Palestinian President obstructed any chance to come to a peace agreement with Israel and filled his pockets and those of his family clan with the millions of dollars and euros received by the PA from abroad. At the same time, the Palestinian economy stagnated and citizens only saw their quality of life deteriorate

Great pressure is now being exerted on Israel to make ‘a goodwill gesture’, that is, the release of Marwan Barghouti. However, chances of an early release for Barghouti seem small after Israel released as many as 1,029 Palestinian terrorists in 2011 in exchange for the release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. This prisoner swap, which gave rise to recidivist terror attacks, still haunts Israeli politicians after a law was adopted to prevent any future prisoner swap that would release murderers.

Barghouti is important to the Palestinian Arabs but in Israel, he is considered a dangerous terrorist with no real intentions to resolve the conflict with the Jewish state.

In that sense, Dahlan appears to be a better candidate because of his role in negotiating the peace agreements between Israel and three Arab Gulf states the so-called Abraham Accords.

Postponement of elections?

The US administration of President Joe Biden has now advised the PA to postpone the elections again because the time is not considered right with the Corona crisis looming in the background.

Nabil Sha'ath a key adviser to Abbas, said during an interview with the news site al-Jadeedal-Falastini that if Israel does not give in to the PA's demand that Arabs living in the eastern part of Jerusalem can vote for the Palestinian parliament, there will be no elections.

On Monday, Abbas himself made it clear that there would not be elections without the residents of Arab Jerusalem.

“We will not agree to hold the general election without the residents of Jerusalem," Abbas said at a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee.

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