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August 24, 2016 1:24 pm

Mideast Analyst: PA President Views New Israeli Defense Minister’s ‘Carrot-and-Stick’ Plan as Threat to His Rule

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Screenshot.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Screenshot.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas feels threatened by the “carrot-and-stick” plan forged by new Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a Mideast expert assessed on Tuesday.

In an analysis for the think tank the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Yoni Ben Menachem wrote that Abbas views the initiative – involving dialogue with the business and academic sectors of Palestinian society alongside punitive measures against radical elements – as a move that “undermin[es] his legitimacy as leader of the Palestinian people.”

According to Ben Menachem, former director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, it is thus that “the PA has hastily put pressure on the Private Sector Coordination Council, which has issued a statement that ‘the PLO is the sole and exclusive representative of the Palestinian people.’”

Ben Menachem asserted that the main goal right now of 81-year-old Abbas “is to remain in power while seeking an appropriate successor, one who will allow him to retire honorably and will ensure the well-being of his family and his two sons’ economic interests.” Any action on Israel’s part that indicates he is easily replaceable poses a serious danger to him, said Ben Menachem.

“The PA chairman,” he wrote, “is proceeding with great caution,” not responding to Lieberman’s announcement of the plan and taking “great care” – according to senior officials in his Fatah faction – “not to give the Israeli defense establishment pretexts to take measures to undermine senior PA officials as well as Abbas himself… and to prevent, through his security mechanisms, any resurgence of the ‘knife intifada,’ which is abating.”

He continued:

The defense minister’s new plan has, indeed, become a means to pressure the PA chairman.

The carrot-and-stick policy in the territories is not new; it was begun after 1967 by then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. From that time to the present, several Israeli defense ministers have employed it. This policy has an internal logic of not punishing those not involved in incitement and terror while encouraging the moderates.

Ben Menachem then tied the timing of Lieberman’s policy announcement to the upcoming municipal elections in the PA, saying it “creates the impression that Israel is planning to intervene… This has led senior PA officials to claim that Israel wants to reestablish the Village Leagues – which, in their day of the late 1970s, dealt with municipal matters and routine services – and to treat the West Bank Palestinians as ‘residents’ and not as a people with rights.”

He explained:

Abbas fears that the Israeli defense establishment will exploit the sharp dissension in Fatah to expand its ties with the heads of the independent lists and with heads of large West Bank clans who will run in the elections, thereby helping these figures create a route that bypasses the PA.

Israel is in full control of Area C of the West Bank, which constitutes about 60 percent of the total land. This enables Israel to exert major influence in all areas of life. The municipalities and local councils require Israel’s approval for their measures, which, in itself, gives Israel powerful leverage over the Palestinian population in general and the heads of the municipalities in particular.

On Sunday, Fatah officials told the Hebrew news site Walla that Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “desire a victory for Hamas in the PA elections, as this would prove their allegations that there is no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side. According to the report, these officials said, however, that the Shin Bet security agency and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories did not wish to see Fatah lose.

The PA municipal elections are slated to take place on October 8.

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