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Israel expects instability, power struggle in West Bank in 2017

Fatah congress due on Tuesday as Palestinian commentators warn corruption and power struggle may lead to civil war

Gulf News

Ramallah: Israel expects a power struggle and subsequent instability to ensue in the West Bank next year, the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Major-General Herzl Halevi has said.

The coming year could be one of instability in the occupied territory, and a power struggle may develop within the ruling Fatah party and the Palestinian National Authority over the appointment of a successor to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, he was quoted as saying in the Israeli press.

Addressing a closed conference at Tel Aviv University, Maj-Gen Halevi said, “the next year will be a year of instability in the [PNA], and there will be a number of elements who will challenge Abbas’s leadership, while Hamas will try to make gains”.

“The result will be a very challenging reality in the West Bank,” he said. “There will be new inventions; it will come in waves and we need to be prepared.”

Palestinian commentators and political analysts agreed with Halevi, with some predicting the outbreak of a bloody civil war in Palestine.

“There is no way to escape an impending bloody civil war in the West Bank; it is coming no matter what,” said Dr Abdul Sattar Qasem, a Nablus-based political scientist.

“Instability and civil war are inevitable in the West Bank; only the timing thereof remains undetermined,” he told Gulf News. “The Israeli occupation fears a Palestinian civil war which will surely reach Israel and have negative consequences for the Israelis.

“It is indeed the Israeli occupation that is capable of creating stability, order and calm in the West Bank, since instability would be extremely harmful for the Israelis,” he said. “The way things are run in the West Bank will surely lead to unavoidable civil war in the Palestinian territories.”

Dr Qasem said that with the way the West Bank is being governeed, members of the PNA do not realise the harm they are doing to the Palestinian public – harm “that will not evaporate without a civil war”.

“The way the PNA runs the West Bank and the unprecedented spread of corruption will undoubtedly lead to a civil war,” he said.

There are almost daily clashes between the PNA security forces and armed Palestinians in the refugee camps.

“However, the power struggle will have consequences,” said Dr Qasem. “The Palestinian leadership will stick to its usual method of running and controlling the West Bank, and that will add insult to injury.”

Fatah’s Seventh Congress is slated to take place on Tuesday, during which a new Fatah Central Committee, Revolutionary Council and a deputy for Abbas, who is Fatah’s head, will be chosen and approved. This position is of key importance, since the future deputy head is likely to replace Abbas and become his successor.

The congress will take place at Abbas’s presidential palace, Al Mukataa, where 1,400 Fatah cadres and members have been summoned (350 of them from the Gaza Strip) under tight security.

Abbas and his aides are believed to be planning to sideline his exiled rival and former Gaza strongman, Mohammad Dahlan, whose supporters believe him to be the rightful successor to Abbas.

Dahlan’s supporters are spread across the West Bank — mainly in the refugee camps — and are engaged in a daily bloody struggle with the Palestinian security forces.