Israelis and Arabs alike are concerned with shaping Palestine’s future in accordance with the interests of the right-wing government in Tel Aviv and in a manner that meets the aspirations of sponsors of the counter-revolution in the Arab world. This was made clear through information revealed by Zvi Yehezkeli, the commentator on Arab affairs at Israel’s Channel 10 TV, and Middle East Eye’s editor, David Hearst, two weeks ago.
According to Yehezkeli, the newly-appointed neo-fascist Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is concerned about creating the proper conditions for disgraced Fatah exile Mohammed Dahlan to take power in the Palestinian Authority. Yehezkeli did not ignore what everyone already knows about the role played by Swiss billionaire Martin Schlaff, who is a mutual friend of both Dahlan and Lieberman, to strengthen their relationship. Israeli and international media reported previously that Lieberman, when he was foreign minister, met with Dahlan in Geneva in 2014 even though the onetime Fatah strongman has no official status; they discussed a future role for him in running Palestinian affairs. Hearst, meanwhile, mentioned that the UAE, with the help of Egypt and Jordan, is leading an Arab initiative that also aims to create the right conditions for Dahlan’s return to succeed Mahmoud Abbas. Dahlan is currently acting as a security adviser to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed. Regardless of the goals of the UAE-Egypt-Jordan move, it is clear that Israel is intended to harvest the strategic gains of having Dahlan at the top of the PA tree.
Lieberman’s enthusiasm for Dahlan to become president is linked to strategic goals which the extreme right wing in Israel clings to, including the overthrow of Hamas in Gaza. The defence minister has said repeatedly that this is a priority on the grounds that such a step will drastically change the security situation in the south of the Zionist entity.
On the eve of the last election in Israel, Lieberman promised those who elected him that he would insist on getting the defence portfolio as it would give him the ability to achieve his goals. He understands, though, that getting rid of Hamas rule could lead to one of two scenarios, either of which will cost Israel heavily, without achieving the desired security in the south. Should Israel withdraw from the Gaza Strip after defeating Hamas there would be chaos; the resistance factions and armed groups would simply go back to targeting Israelis in the absence of any authority in the territory which Tel Aviv can pressure, as it does even now with Hamas. Furthermore, the effect of any military operation against Hamas is going to be limited and the movement will be able to regain its military effectiveness in a very short time, without being required to shoulder a political burden.
In the scenario whereby Israel opts to stay in Gaza, there would be a military and economic price to pay, and it would have a negative effect upon Israel’s international standing. Hence, Lieberman plans to produce an alternative Palestinian Authority — under Dahlan — which is able to fill the void. At the same time as introducing non-Hamas rule in Gaza he would, Lieberman hopes, be able to ensure the continuation of the security environment prevailing in the West Bank, with intensive security cooperation with the Israeli occupation forces to secure the illegal settlements and Judaisation project; he also wants to prevent the West Bank from being used for resistance operations in the heart of Israel. However, Lieberman is aware that he needs regional Arab support to pave the way for Dahlan to replace Abbas, due to the reluctance of many people within Fatah in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to have him back.
Lieberman’s plan and the UAE-Egypt-Jordan move will not guarantee any role for Dahlan in a future Palestine. In reality, Lieberman is almost the only Israeli official who believes that the Palestinians will allow Dahlan to assume any leadership position in the PA. According to numerous strategy estimates issued by the Israel Defence Forces, intelligence agencies and the coordinator of Israeli activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, the opportunities for a “moderate” to succeed Mahmoud Abbas are close to zero, not only because of disappointment over the lack of progress after 20 years of negotiations with Israel, but also because of the increasing belief among Palestinians that resistance is the best way to restore their rights. Indeed, a number of Israeli generals have expressed their pessimism about the future of Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians in the occupied territories post-Abbas.
Lieberman’s regional partners have to understand that circumstances have changed, and what was possible in 2003, when the Bush administration, the Sharon government and regional parties created the conditions for Abbas to succeed Yasser Arafat, is now impossible. The Jerusalem Intifada, although slowing down, represents the “Palestinian Spring”, which threatens the existence of parasitic groups which derive their legitimacy from helping the Zionist entity to secure its colonial project, target resistance and support the counter-revolutions. Such groups, in particular, should check the opinion polls which confirm, beyond any doubt, that there is no place for them in the future of Palestine.
Translated from Al Araby Al Jadid, 31 May, 2016
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.