Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Throughout the current wave of violence, and away from public rhetoric, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to be perceived by Israel's defense establishment as a key restraining factor, though there is concern within quarters of the IDF that Abbas's ability to hold back a new intifada is growing weaker.
The PA's security forces are continuing to play a key role in preventing mass rioting on the scale seen more than ten years ago in the West Bank, and most importantly, they have received clear directives from Abbas to repress Hamas and its terror cells wherever they surface. But the ability of security forces to continue to do this may be decreasing.
Away from the public rhetoric, Abbas suffered a personal, political, and diplomatic loss in recent months in the eyes of many Palestinians, and his appearance at the United Nations last month, in which he asked for the international community to send a protective force for the Palestinians, was seen as desperate and weak by the Palestinian street. This has further undermined his standing, raising concerns within the defense establishment in Israel.
Currently. Abbas faces two strategic options, one which appears to be inapplicable, and the other undesirable from Abbas's perspective. The first option, of reaching a diplomatic agreement with Israel, seems out of reach, as far as Abbas is concerned. He does not seem prepared to make his position more flexible under current conditions.
The second option, of unleashing a full-scale third intifada, has been firmly ruled out by Abbas, who fears that such a development will destroy Palestinian society, and remembers the self-harm Palestinians brought on themselves during the second intifada.
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The Israeli defense establishment is unsure whether whoever succeeds Abbas will be as firm in ruling out a third intifada.
In his current position, the Palestinian leader is focusing on two goals, one negative and one positive. The first to build up a Palestinian state, including international recognition at the UN. This maneuver is designed to turn the state into an accomplished fact in the international arena. The second goal involves attacking Israel's legitimacy, and accusing it of being an illegitimate occupier. Together, according to Abbas's plan, the goals are supposed to create pressure on Israel that will lead it to conclude that the status quo is exacting too high a price.
However, Abbas returned from the UN weakened, and under intense criticism from Palestinian elements.
Now, as a new wave of violence spreads across the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Israel, Abbas will face even more pressure from within.
Despite the new wave of violence, the defense establishment does not compare the current situation to that of the second intifada. In the previous decade, large military forces were needed to enter Palestinian cities like Jenin and Nablus. Today, small forces enter and pluck out wanted security suspects on an nightly basis, often with no injuries to either side.
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Israel continues to have good security and intelligence coverage of the West Bank, though it cannot prevent the emergence of every terror cell, or prevent riots and lone attackers.
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