Aug 30 2004

Status of the changes in the Palestinian leadership

Published by at 2:22 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

The past few weeks have shown that Palestinian president Yaser Arafat can’t be put into a predictable box. Just when it was thought that Arafat was on the ropes and going down, he emerged stronger than before. And just when people thought that the up and coming Mohammad Dahlan was down and out (some even predicted that he would be killed if he stepped foot in Ramallah’s Muqata’a) he gets invited to a one on one meeting with Arafat. The first meeting has been followed by a second meeting on Wednesday and the rumor now is that he is being considered again for the position of interior minister within the reform cabinet that Arafat and Abu Ala’a are under pressure to deliver.
It is clear that while Arafat has many cards up his sleeve, he also realizes the limitations that he has especially in the volatile Gaza strip which will undoubtedly benefit if he has someone as influential as Dahlan on his side. For his part Dahlan has also realized that alone he is unable to gain the power he wants.

But if the score between Arafat and Dahlan can be considered a draw, it is still unclear who has come out as the winner between Arafat on the one hand and Abu Maszan and Abu Ala’a on the other hand. The reconciliation between the latter two seems to be the beginning of a reconciliation between Arafat and Abu Mazen. For the same reasons as with Dahlan, Arafat has had to take some steps towards his current and his previous prime ministers. He has given in somewhat to Abu Ala’a in the form of moving around some senior security and police heads ( in consultation with Abu Ala’a). he also made a public appeal to Abu Mazen during his speech at the PLC last week, this appeal was followed up by Arafat appointing Abu Mazen to the inter Palestinian talks in Cairo.

Naturally all this discussion is underscored by the hidden struggle within the Fatah movement for the post Arafat era. At present Arafat seems to be keeping this issue away from the public eye and it is the most talked about issue in Palestinian internal circles. Below is a chart of key players and how they line up:

1. Arafat- still the key player has control over security and indirect control over money. Popular in the street and unpopular with the US and Israel.

2. Abu Al’aa- succeeded in staying in the office of prime minister and has good relations with all parties including the Israelis and Americans and people on the street. He is not on anyone’s veto list but is not the most exciting candidate. His long term membership in Fatah and his cunningness are among his strong points.

3. Abu Mazen has come out the cleanest among the possible replacements of Arafat, he has the support of Israel and the US and the Palestinian elite. His weakness is that he is not cunning enough and his relations with the security leaders (except for Dahlan) are not clear.

4. Dahlan – has strong support in Gaza and with Israelis and Americans (the latter can be both good and bad). His only chance for power is to work behind the scenes by backing one of the leading members of the Fatah central committee.

5. Rajoub- can be a dark horse. He has strong support among the Fatah local leadership especially in the security apparatus (the preventative security mostly which he established and nurtured) he has some support among the rank and file and is accepted by regional powers and the US. Has not been as tainted as Dahlan by his relations with Israel and the US (mostly after his headquarters were shelled by the Israelis in the beginning of the current intifada). His recent close relations with Arafat (he is the secretary of the National Security Council) could help him.

6. Marwan Barghouti another dark horse. His biggest problem is that he is in jail. The Europeans are pushing hard for the Israelis to release him. If that takes place (and how it takes place, possibly as part of the expected prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah).

7. Abbas Zaki- another dark horse. His strength is that he is a member of the Fatah central committee and a PLC representative from a powerful Hebron family. His recent heading of the Reform Committee at the PLC and at the same time his refusal to be in a public confrontational mood with Arafat has got him some strong points. He is knows well in Arab circles, not so well known with the US or Israel.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.