Photo Credit: Majdi Fathi/TPS
A Fatah rally in Gaza. Jan. 1, 2020

Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah officials believe they are marching toward the end of the Mahmoud Abbas era and the strategic failure of his “political intifada” against Israel.

Abbas launched a series of diplomatic campaigns against Israel at several international forums in recent years, all of which have apparently failed in wake of President Donald Trump’s Deal of the Century which calls for a partial Israeli annexation of areas in Judea and Samaria

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One source told TPS that the Deal of the Century peace plan is nothing but an “American impeachment letter to Abbas” and the Arab League summit that convened over the weekend in Cairo to discuss the plan is essentially “a respectable farewell ceremony” to the PA’s chairman.

Many elements in Ramallah and those close to the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip share this assessment, although senior officials and Abu Mazen’s associates reject it and claim that his appearance before the Arab foreign ministers was “a political success and a rare achievement of a determined leader.”

Ashraf Ajrami, a former PA minister, told TPS that “it is still early to talk about Abu Mazen’s departure from the stage as he still has something to say on domestic, Arab and international issues, and the Palestinian system is not ready for his departure.”

Hossein a-Sheikh, the PA Minister of Civil Affairs, rejected these notions and told TPS that rumors about Abbas’ end are “nonsense.”

A PA official said that in closed discussions there is a push to accept the Trump plan and contend with it. “I said that I think the PA should not reject the plan and openly confront the US. Many agree with me but will not publicly express their agreement, and the plan will not be accepted,” he said.

Based on meetings in Ramallah, the source said that senior officials understand “that the United States is determined to end Abu Mazen’s role and must now come to terms with it or risk a confrontation with Trump.”

He also said that there is an understanding that the Americans are determined to replace the PA with another mechanism if necessary, to ensure continued security coordination with Israel and the operation of vital civilian systems.

The source said that after all the surprising American measures in recent months, the US will be free to escort Abu Mazen out the door and will try to appoint a successor to ensure the PA’s stability and the continued security relations with the US and Israel.

He also alleged that Abbas removal is coordinated not only with Israel, but “with Colonel Majd Faraj, the head of Palestinian intelligence who may be his successor, with US and Israeli support.”

“Faraj’s name is already being spoken about in the corridors,” the official said, but officials say that although Faraj oversees relations with the CIA and is highly trusted, there is currently no talk about his appointment as Abbas’ heir.

On the other hand, a security official said that there is broad agreement on the need for the appointment of a security personality after Abu Mazen and that Faraj is considered a natural heir, although this move is only expected to begin if Israel annexes areas in Judea and Samaria and the PA subsequently cancels the peace agreements.

The secret visit last week by CIA chief Gina Haspel to Ramallah is perceived as a move which was intended to make it clear to Abbas that he is leaving office and to ensure his descent from the stage in an orderly manner, enabling him to preserve his “legacy” and being registered in history as not “selling Jerusalem” and not agreeing to concessions.

The embarrassment and tension in the PA have risen in recent days, and rumors circulating claim that Abu Mazen’s appointment of Nabil Shaath as his special envoy is in fact a promise to appoint him temporarily as head of the PA.

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