Netanyahu, Liberman want Hamas win in local elections, Fatah officials claim
search
Analysis

Netanyahu, Liberman want Hamas win in local elections, Fatah officials claim

Abbas associates say gains by Islamists would justify Israeli rejectionism; Fatah showing unity in ranks ahead of vote

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Khartoum's airport, July 19, 2016. (AFP/Ashraf Shazly)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Khartoum's airport, July 19, 2016. (AFP/Ashraf Shazly)

With Fatah and Hamas locked in a high-stakes struggle ahead of October’s Palestinian municipal elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, officials close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have accused the Israeli leadership of hoping for a Hamas win.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman “are convinced we are going to lose and thus want these elections,” the officials told The Times of Israel.

“They desire a victory for Hamas, as this would prove their allegations that there is no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side, they said.

The officials limited their accusations to Netanyahu and Liberman, however. Israel’s intelligence community, the Shin Bet security service and officials in charge of coordination with the Palestinians were “a different story,” they said, and these did not wish to see Fatah lose.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (left) hold a press conference in the Knesset on Monday, May 30, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (left) hold a press conference in the Knesset on Monday, May 30, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Candidate lists are closing in five days. Despite concerns that Hamas could make significant gains in the polls, and with Hamas recently threatening to boycott the elections over the arrests of its members in the West Bank, the officials said there was no intention of canceling or postponing the voting.

“Fatah has a reasonable chance of winning,” the officials told The Times of Israel. “The decision to go to the polls has tightened the ranks, and we are working intensely to prevent any splits or internal conflicts.”

Fatah sources noted, with some surprise, that even those Fatah politicians affiliated with longtime Abbas rival Mohammad Dahlan appeared intent on maintaining unity, in order to bolster the party’s chances to defeat Hamas.

Other Fatah officials noted that though there were still disagreements about the organization’s local rosters, extraordinary efforts were being made to prevent any internal discord that could lead to multiple candidates splitting the vote and a subsequent victory for Hamas candidates. Disputes still existed over the identities of candidates in the large Palestinian cities, though decisions were expected to be made by week’s end.

Mohammad Dahlan in 2006 (Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Mohammad Dahlan in 2006 (Michal Fattal/Flash90)

In Nablus, barring any last-minute surprises, Fatah and Hamas candidates were expected to run together in a joint list led by current Hamas-backed Nablus Mayor Adly Yaish. The groups would then rotate leadership of the municipality. Meanwhile in Ramallah, Mayor Musa Hadid was expected to once again lead Fatah’s election effort. The candidates in other cities have not yet been determined.

A number of officials noted that clan affiliation was the most consequential factor in the haggling over candidate identities, even more so than party affiliation — particularly in smaller towns and villages.

The various officials who spoke with The Times of Israel, including Dahlan associates, noted that Friday’s security crackdown in Nablus, in which two PA policemen and two gunmen were killed, had increased the stature of Abbas and the PA.

Members of the Palestinian security forces patrol in the West Bank city of Nablus on August 19,2016 during ongoing clashes between the security forces and Palestinian gunmen. (AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)
Members of the Palestinian security forces patrol in the West Bank city of Nablus on August 19,2016 during ongoing clashes between the security forces and Palestinian gunmen. (AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

Liberman, they added, had provided an unlikely boost as well, with his repeated claims that Abbas is an obstacle to peace.

“Liberman’s accusations against Abbas actually strengthen him. The chief needed Israel to attack him rather than embrace him [in order to shore up support],” the officials said, “and Liberman delivered the goods.”

read more:
less
comments
more