MER - Washington - MiddleEast.Org - 6 January 2006: Reports
are now this morning that Ariel Sharon has either died or is brain
dead. As we have said repeatedly, and Sharon's death only
underscores at this point, the year just begun seems destined to be one
of escalating turmoil, bloodshed, and geostrategic changes that will
affect the entire world for many years to come. The U.S. and
Israel have severely destablized Syria; the Baath Regime they have
targeted there is wobbling 'on the ropes'. Iraq is exploding
worse than ever. Preparations to attack Iran unless the regime
there can somehow either be brought down or forced to comply are
advancing with considerable behind-the-scenes efforts to use bases and
capabilities in surrounding countries including Turkey, Afghanistan,
Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi, UAE, Oman. Taking down Iran
and Syria, and greatly maybe fatally weakening Hezbollah (Lebanon) and
Hamas (Palestine), have been major U.S. and Israeli goals all
along. And in occupied Palestine the client-regime known as
the 'Palestinian Authority' may also be on its last legs after so many
years of corruption and co-optation. This interesting report from
a news service associated with the Washington Times.
The likelihood remains, as we have been reporting for some time now,
that even with his power and authority so undermined, Abbas and the VIP
Palestinians who surround him, especially the U.S.-CIA-connected Deputy
Prime Minister Nabil Shaath, will find the excuses and take the risks
of cancelling the fast-approaching election rather than what may be
even greater risks of letting it go forward.
Abbas has become 'total non-entity' as Palestinian Authority comes unglued
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has lost his power.
Abbas's orders to the security forces are routinely ignored. Even his threats to resign do not cause a ripple.
Abbas's orders to the security
forces are routinely ignored. His policy directives fail to echo
through the PA bureaucracy. Even his threats to resign do not cause a
Currently, Abbas is under severe
pressure to cancel Palestinian Legislative Council elections, scheduled
for Jan. 25. Sources close to Abbas said the chairman has already
reached such a decision, but is waiting for an opportune time to
announce it, intending to blame Israel for the cancellation.
So far, the Palestinian Central
Election Commission has failed to register most Palestinian voters.
Foreign monitors have quietly told the PA they will not enter the Gaza
Strip, which has been plagued by a rash of abductions, mostly of
"It is time to impose the
authority of law and order," Abbas said in a New Year message broadcast
on Palestinian television. "These events harm our international
credibility and strengthen Israel's pretext to undermine peace and stop
The decline of Abbas into
obscurity has been rapid. Two weeks ago, Abbas entered the waiting room
of his dentist in Ramallah. While the room was full of people, no one
looked up or in any way acknowledged the man trumpeted as the president
of the Palestinian people.
"It's as if he's a total non-entity," said a Palestinian source who confirmed the story. "No one takes him seriously."
Despite numerous pledges, Abbas
has done nothing to impose law and order. PA security forces have
failed to take any action against groups aligned with the ruling Fatah
movement. The forces have refused to crack down on the Islamic
opposition as Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunners maintain missile strikes
on Israel. In many cases, PA security officers help Hamas and Jihad in
attacks against Israel and Palestinians.
Fatah is responsible for most of
the internecine violence. Fatah gunmen have abducted scores of
Westerners, demanding jobs
and money from the PA. In virtually every case, Abbas has acceded,
eroding morale among those officers who still take their job seriously.
Last week, Fatah gunmen abducted
a British national and her parents in the Gaza Strip and then released
them two later. Kate Burton, international coordinator for the
pro-Palestinian organization Al Mezan, was held incommunicado while
negotiations took place with the gunmen.
Palestinian sources said Abbas
might use the abduction to announce the cancellation of elections. They
said he has discussed the issue with Egypt as well as with Hamas.
Hamas has not ruled out
postponing the elections, the sources said. But the Islamic movement
has demanded key ministries in any new cabinet. This would include the
Interior Ministry, responsible for Palestinian security. So far, Abbas
has not ruled this out.
"Fatah has turned desperate," a
source said. "They know that in any election they would lose badly.
They are ready to make all sorts of deals to stop the election."
As a result, the Gaza Strip has
descended into chaos. PA security forces have splintered into factions,
with each ready to attack government offices and installations to press
for their demands of money and power.
Last week, about 100 PA officers
stormed the Rafah border terminal along the Egyptian border in a move
that prompted the flight of about 70 European Union monitors. The
officers took over the terminal to stop a rival Fatah faction from
fleeing Gaza to Egypt. Earlier, the Fatah faction attacked a police
station in Gaza City and an officer was killed.
Throughout the crisis, Abbas was
helpless. Palestinian sources said he maintained contact with Egypt,
which has been his leading ally and responsible for Palestinian
security forces in the Gaza Strip. Egypt reportedly advised Abbas not
The PA has failed to get tough
with terrorists. But PA security officers have been brutal against
Palestinian dissidents, including peaceful protesters.
Abbas has also tolerated human
rights abuses by PA security forces. On Dec. 26, PA officers shot and
wounded four farm laborers who protested against conditions in the
southern Gaza Strip. The laborers were employed at greenhouses in the
former Jewish settlement of Netzer Hazani in a $33 million project
financed by the international community.
The laborers had cut off water
supplies to the greenhouses to protest a PA plan to reduce by 50
percent the number of working days. The workers received 60 shekels, or
$12.50, a day.
But Abbas's problems are only
beginning. Starting this week, Abbas faces a direct challenge from
Palestinian terrorist groups. All 11 groups, including Fatah and Hamas,
said they would no longer be bound by a so-called "lull" in violence
declared in February 2005.
"We insist on our right to respond to any Israeli violation of the calm," Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Jaradat said.
This time, Palestinian terrorist
groups promise a much more vigorous fight against Israel. The military
wing of Islamic Jihad reported an attempt to manufacture anti-aircraft
missiles. A Jihad spokesman said the missiles were designed to strike
Israeli fixed-wing and helicopters in the Gaza Strip.
Fatah has also been preparing
for a major onslaught. Mohammed Abdul Aal, spokesman for the
Fatah-sponsored Popular Resistance Committee, said his group has
obtained maps of Israel army bases north of the Gaza Strip.
Abdul Aal said the PRC's military wing, Nasser Salah Eddin Brigades, planned to carry out attacks deep inside Israel.
The PRC said its missiles have
been upgraded and now have a range of 15 kilometers. Abdul Aal said the
first missiles had a range of only 3 kilometers.
The United States is alarmed by
the complete breakdown in the PA, particularly in the Gaza Strip. But
the Bush administration has kept its cool and maintains unlimited
support for Abbas in an effort to help him survive PLC elections.
At one point, the State
Department offered to help Fatah candidates who pledged to campaign
against Hamas. Palestinian sources said the U.S. Agency for
International Development has been in contact with several Fatah
candidates with ties to Israel's Labor Party.
"AID told the Fatah candidates
to open bank accounts in Israel, but said they must attack Hamas in
their platforms," a source said.
Still, the administration has
lost hope that Hamas could be defeated under any circumstances. As a
result, Washington has signaled to Abbas that the United States would
not object to the cancellation of PLC elections. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice has pledged to support any decision by Abbas, one
"The United States believes that
a non-government headed by Abbas is better than a functional government
headed by Hamas," the source said.