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Abbas Health Rumors Spark Fears of Succession Battle

PLO leadership abbas
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV — Recent reports of a deterioration in the health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas set off fears of a political war of succession that could work to the advantage of Hamas, an Arab intelligence source told Breitbart Jerusalem.

According to the source, the Palestinian president’s health has created a situation in which the region’s countries started consultations regarding possible scenarios in the case of Abbas’ disappearance from the Palestinian stage as the result of health issues or his own decision to quit.

The source noted that countries like the U.S., Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have opinions regarding Abbas’ replacement due to the influence of the process on their own policies.

“And especially because of the fact that in addition to the war of succession that’s expected to break out in Fatah, there are outside sources waiting to see how things develop, meaning the Hamas movement, which hopes anarchy erupts, making it more likely it will control the PLO institutions,” said the source.

“And when we talk about the odds that Hamas will control the PLO institutions by taking advantage of the confusion that will prevail among the Palestinian leadership, that means that Iran is likely to have a significant foothold in the PA territories, both on the physical and political levels.”

The source noted that Hamas is in no rush to reconcile with Fatah. It wants to see the effects of the American political process on the Palestinian leadership and Abbas’ situation specifically.

“Hamas is currently playing two sides,” he said. “On the one hand, it is cooperating with Egypt regarding reconciliation, but at the same time it continues to make efforts to revive its military and political capabilities in the West Bank. Hamas is using the discord within Fatah, especially the differences between Abbas and his rival in Fatah’s leadership Muhammed Dahlan, to influence the appointment of the heir.”

The source added that Israel and the U.S. would like to see Palestinian security officials, especially Palestinian general intelligence commander Majed Faraj, to continue their influence over Palestinian politics, but what’s certain is that there won’t be any one figure who will manage to take up all three of Abbas’ positions: director general of the PLO, president of the PA and chair of Fatah.

“There will be a cooperative leadership, with the name of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fiad coming up in the past few months,” said the source. “The problem is that Fatah is prepared to join forces with Hamas to block Dahlan’s path and Dahlan isn’t ruling out cooperation with Hamas in order to harm Abbas. The problem with the countries of the region doesn’t allow for a process to prevent any scenario in which the internal Palestinian situation will be used by Iran.”

According to the source, Jordan is particularly worried over the possible return of Fatah’s armed militias, which would be fertile ground for Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to try and spark attacks and anarchy.

“The working assumption is a situation in which Hamas will try to sell itself as a legitimate, moderate player who is worthy of being part of a new ruling order and that would be Iran’s opportunity to crawl in through its people in Hamas,” he said. “And the countries of the region are meant to give their opinion and prevent this scenario.”

According to the source, Palestinian security forces have recently been making efforts to prevent young Palestinians, especially those in the refugee camps, from joining up with hostile, pro-Iranian groups and Salafist elements in Palestinian circles, especially in the West Bank.

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