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January 13, 2005 - Image 21

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-01-13

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Uphill Battle

Abbas faces challenges as he prepares to lead the Palestinian Authority.

Photos by Brian Hendler/JTA

elections would be held no later
than August.
Abbas also faces the challenge of
reforming the security forces: Internal
rivalries in the P.A. allowed for the rise
ahmoud Abbas, elected presi-
of local chieftains and a near-total
dent of the Palestinian
breakdown in public order. One way
Authority on Sunday, wore a
to mend the situation will be for
bandage on his finger during the election
Abbas to rein in the number of com-
peting security organizations.
Abbas was injured when he waved
The P.A. has 15 security organiza-
through his car window during an elec-
tions that often duplicate each other
tion stop and a security guard mistakenly
and that together have an estimated
raised the electric window, catching his
65,000 people on payroll.
Though Palestinian leaders often
It was a minor price to pay for a cam-
claim they don't have the manpower
paign in which many had feared for
to crack down on terrorist groups such
Abbas' head, not his fingers — and his
as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the huge
finger injury is nothing next to the
secuiity forces give the P.A. one of the
headaches he will face after Sunday's elec-
highest ratios of security personnel to
citizens in the world.
Abbas' internal challenges are just as
Abbas will need to unify the dis-
menacing as his fragile relations with
A Palestinian woman casts her ballot in Sunday's Palestinian Autho thy
parate security organizations into three
presidential election in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem.
or four large ones. That still isn't ideal,
For one, he has limited powers: Abbas
but would be a far cry from the pres-
begins his career as P.A. president with a
ent state of near-anarchy.
limited budget and many internal rivals
The opportunity is there for thorough changes:
Arafat used to encourage internal rivalries to
waiting for him to fail.
The current P.A. cabinet, which is made up of 25
strengthen his own position by preventing anyone
Palestinian society is torn among conflicting cur-
ministers, will resign immediately after the elec-
from amassing power and emerging as a potential
rents — religious and secular, left and right, inter-
rival. Abbas doesn't have Arafat's charisma to repeat
nal splits within each political camp and too many
So far, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has kept his
local chieftains focused on their own limited inter-
status as second in command. He and Abbas see eye these tactics, nor would they serve his interest.
But he will need to take into account several
to eye on relations with Israel, but their personal
strongmen who may prove troublesome if their
"The burden on his shoulders is rather heavy,"
relations have been strained.
political and professional aspirations are not
Faisal Horani, a Palestinian writer, said in an inter-
Other key figures such as Finance Minster Salam
view with Ha'aretz, "but under the Israeli occupa-
Fayyad, Foreign Affairs Minister Nabil Shaath and
Among the key players are Rashid Abu Shbak,
tion, he does not have the necessary tools to cope
Saeb Erekat, who is in charge of negotiations with
commander of the preventive security force — basi-
with the responsibility."
Israel, are likely to go along with Abbas and not
cally, the secret service — in the Gaza Strip; Jibril
"I already feel sorry for him," said Nazmi
pose difficulties.
Rajoub, former commander of preventive security
Al-Juabi, a history professor at Birzeit University in
in the West Bank and presently Abbas' national
the West Bank and one of the signatories of the
Insider Politics
security adviser; Tawfik Tirawi, • head of military
"Geneva Accord," an informal peace proposal for-
intelligence; and Abdel Razek Majaideh and Haj
mulated in 2003 by Israeli and Palestinian public
Internal politics pose still another problem. Fatah is
Ismail, Gaza Strip and West Bank commanders of
still the strongest party in the PLO, but it has gone
the Palestinian national security forces, the largest
Abbas will need to transform himself into a
through a number of crises in recent years as a
P.A. military force, with 40,000 troops on its pay-
national leader. Given the heritage of his predeces-
result of tensions between the "Old Guard" leader-
sor, Yasser Arafat, that's no easy task.
ship and the younger generation, whose most pres-
One old-time supporter of Abbas is Mohammed
Abbas will have to transfer the balance of power
tigious figure is Marwan Barghouti, serving a life
Dahlan, the former preventive security head in the
from the Palestine Liberation Organization
sentence in an Israeli jail for his role in
Gaza Strip. Dahlan currently is "unemployed" but
— an organization that includes most
terrorist attacks.
still wields considerable influence in Gaza, and has
Palestinian factions, including refugees
The presidential race pushed aside the
a good chance to be incorporated into the new gov-
abroad — to the P.A.'s executive branch.
internal Fatah struggle, but it is likely to
In other words, he will need to upgrade
be renewed now
Hamas is still the main opposition force. Its elec-
the P.A. into a state-in-the-making with an
"If there is no change in the internal
toral power is estimated at 20 percent, but its
effective government after the past four years of
composition of Fatah, the movement may split this
power on the street is sufficient to make Abbas' life
intifada violence have undone the strides the
year," Cabinet Minister Kadura Fares warned.
authority made during the years of the Oslo peace
Trying to win the hearts of the younger genera-
tion, Abbas announced recently that internal Fatah
ELECTIONS on page 22

Jewish Telegraphic Agency






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