Earlier this month, a Lebanese newspaper reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 88, had been rushed to Jordan for emergency medical treatment. Abbas, who is currently in the 19th year of a 4-year term, is not popular among Palestinians, but the prospect of Iranian-backed terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad supplanting the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria), as they did in the Gaza Strip in 2007, is not a welcome one in the eyes of Israel’s government. Israel has been strategizing for years about how to respond to his eventual passing and the ensuing leadership succession struggle. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently told a closed-door session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, “We are preparing for the day after Abbas. We need the Palestinian Authority. We cannot allow it to collapse. We also do not want it to collapse. We are prepared to help it financially.” Netanyahu also insisted the Palestinians’ drive for an independent state “must be cut off.”
Netanyahu is attempting to find a path between the Biden administration, which is scrambling to impose its vision of a Palestinian state in the non-Jewish areas of Judea and Samaria, and his religious party coalition members, who want to accelerate Jewish building there. Terrorist attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians – one of which resulted in the murders of 3 young Israeli men and one senior citizen – sparked what the government called “vigilante” attacks by Jewish youths, who set fire to Palestinian cars and homes. That prompted one Israeli security official to compare the Jewish attacks on Palestinian property in Samaria to “pogroms,” where Jews were persecuted in 19th century Russia and elsewhere. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, was furious with that comparison. He said in a statement, “Everyone knows that those who participated in these incidents are troubled teens who don’t even live in Judea and Samaria, and even those who do are a small minority, most of whom are youth-at-risk.” Dagan added, “This attempt to tie this invalid phenomenon to defame Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria is disgusting and, reeks of politics.
Every fair person must dismiss it.” He continued, “The ‘pogrom atmosphere’ is in the Palestinian Authority, where there are red signs at the entrance that read ‘Entry to Israeli citizens is dangerous.'” Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government moved ahead with construction of 4,500 new housing units for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and the U.S. restored a boycott of Israeli scientific research partnerships originating in the West Bank which the Trump administration had discontinued 3 years ago. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed the Biden administration in a statement for being “pathologically obsessed with undermining Israel.” Cruz noted what he saw as hypocrisy in Washington’s foreign policy, adding that the administration “defends funding scientific research in Wuhan with the Chinese Communist Party, but they’re banning cooperation with Jews based on where they live.” It all circles back to the fragile condition of Mahmoud Abbas, and what will happen as Palestinians attempt to fill the emerging void in Ramallah, while Tehran, Washington, and Jerusalem contend for their own interests in the land.
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