Photo Credit: Flash90
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, September 3, 2020.

{Reposted from the Gatestone Institute website}

One week after he entered the 17th year of his four-year term in office, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finally announced new parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled to take place in May and July 2021.

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His announcement was carefully timed to coincide with the inauguration week of President Joe Biden and in response to immense pressure from the European Union.

Abbas’s announcement, which many Palestinians take as seriously as they would take the alleged sighting of a UFO, is part of an attempt to curry favor with the Biden administration and the EU.

There is only one word to describe Abbas’s announcement: deception.

The proposed Palestinian elections are part of a scheme designed to deceive the international community, specifically the US and EU, into believing that the Palestinians are serious about implementing major reforms, ending financial and administrative corruption, and engaging in another peace process with Israel.

Abbas, who boycotted President Donald Trump’s administration since December 2017, is hoping that the Biden administration will, among other things, resume financial aid to the Palestinians and the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA); reopen the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington, DC., and cancel the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Abbas did not call for elections because he suddenly believes in democracy and pluralism or because he wants to pave the way for new and young leaders to rise to power. Abbas did not call for elections because he wants to give the Palestinians the opportunity to elect new leaders through a free and fair electoral process.

Perhaps the 85-year-old Abbas called for elections because he wants to retire and spend his time playing with his grandchildren. Better not count on that.

Not only does Abbas have no plans to depart from the political scene anytime in the near future, he is even said to be considering running in the presidential election, if and when it takes place on July 31.

There is one reason, and one reason only, why Abbas is now talking about holding general elections: to continue milking the cash cow he has in the form of American and European governments. Abbas wants the money to ensure his continued dictatorial rule over the Palestinians.

He knows that without money from the US and EU, his regime would not survive for one day. Abbas also knows that without Israel’s security presence in the West Bank, Hamas and his political enemies would easily remove him from power.

Abbas is trying to show the Biden administration and the Europeans that he is not an autocrat or an illegitimate leader whose tenure ended in January 2009.

In addition to money, Abbas is apparently hoping that his election farce would persuade the Americans and Europeans to support his plan to hold an international conference for “peace” in the Middle East.

Abbas does not want to return to direct negotiations with Israel: he knows that Israel cannot comply with 100% of his demands (a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and the “right of return” for “millions” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel).

Abbas is hoping that such an international conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and China, would impose a solution on Israel. Abbas has only one solution in mind: one that would see Israel fully withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem, and the establishment of a Palestinian state that would undoubtedly be used in the future as a launching pad to wage war on Israel.

If Abbas’s rivals in Hamas win the parliamentary and presidential elections, the future Palestinian state that Abbas is aspiring to establish will be an Iran-backed Islamist terror entity, similar to the mini-state that already exists in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

In 2006, Hamas defeated Abbas’s Fatah faction in the parliamentary election, triggering a bitter and bloody power struggle between the two rival parties. At the peak of the conflict in the summer of 2007, Hamas militiamen threw Fatah activists from the rooftops of tall buildings and killed hundreds of others.

Since then, the Palestinians have had two independent and sovereign mini-states: one to the east of Israel, on the “West Bank” of the Jordan River; and one to the west of Israel, on the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups, is being used as a launching pad for carrying out various forms of terrorist attacks against Israel, including firing thousands of rockets into Israel over the past 15 years.

Hamas leaders have welcomed Abbas’s announcement They say they intend to participate in the general elections. Hamas is now hoping to repeat the victory it scored in the 2006 parliamentary election.

Public opinion polls have shown that more than 60% of the Palestinians would like to see Abbas quit. This means that a vast majority of Palestinians do not believe in Abbas and his Fatah lieutenants.

In 2006, many Palestinians voted for Hamas because they were fed up with Fatah’s corruption and incompetence.

The polls now show that the views of many Palestinians toward Abbas and Fatah have not changed, which means Hamas has a good chance of winning another victory in the upcoming elections. Another Hamas victory means that the West Bank would become another terrorist entity ruled by Iran’s Palestinian allies and proxies. Thanks to the presence of Israel in the West Bank, there is less terrorism there. If Israel pulls out, the West Bank will fall into the hands of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who will start firing rockets at Israeli in the same way they have been doing from the Gaza Strip for years.

A reminder of Hamas’s dangerous ambitions was provided on January 18, 2021, by none other than its leader, Ismail Haniyeh.

Addressing a conference in Tehran, Haniyeh said that the “resistance” against Israel remains an “ideal choice” and the “strategic option” of his group.

“Resistance” is a euphemism for continuing the war of terrorism against Israel by using rockets, suicide bombings, car-rammings, stabbings and shootings, as well as throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli soldiers and civilians.

In early February, leaders of Fatah and Hamas are expected to meet in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, to discuss preparations for the elections. The two sides are saying they want to reach agreement not only on the issue of elections, but “real partnership.” Fatah and Hamas are ready temporarily to lay aside their differences to form a unified front against Israel.

Abbas wants money, while Hamas wants legitimacy and recognition from the international community. Hamas, of course, also wants to extend its control to the West Bank, overthrow Abbas and proceed with its plan to destroy Israel.

For Abbas and Fatah, the talk about elections is important because they want to dupe the US and EU into giving them more money. Hamas, for its part, is hoping that the elections will legitimize it in the international community it and turn it into an acceptable player in the Palestinian arena.

If Fatah and Hamas really cared about elections and the interests of their people, they would have held elections a long time ago. The two parties, however, have spent the past 15 years torturing and arresting each other, denying their people both free elections and basic public freedoms.

The Palestinians live under two dictatorships: one in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip. Elections, even if they are held, will not produce new leaders. They will produce Fatah flunkies and Hamas henchmen who bow obediently to their corrupt bosses.

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Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East. This article originally appeared on the Gatestone Institute website (gatestoneinstitute.org).