(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s verbal attacks against PA President Mahmoud Abbas are probably the best thing that could have happened to the Palestinian leader these days.
The foreign minister’s assessment of Abbas is almost entirely accurate and many Palestinians would even agree that it’s time to elect a new leader. But when the criticism comes from Liberman, this actually plays into Abbas’s hands.
Liberman’s call to replace Abbas came at a time when the Palestinian Authority president is facing growing criticism at home. In recent months, an increased number of Palestinians has been speaking out against failed policies and leadership in several fields.
Abbas’s failure to end the dispute between his Fatah faction and Hamas, implement major financial and administrative reforms and solve the severe financial crisis in the PA, have seriously damaged his credibility.
Moreover, Abbas has recently come under sharp attack for cracking down on journalists, bloggers and political rivals in the West Bank.
Abbas himself has been aware of the growing criticism.
Which is why he recently decided to try and regain some of his credibility by visiting refugee camps and cities and meeting with ordinary Palestinians.
But now Abbas seems to be getting support for his efforts to boost his popularity from none other than Liberman. When Liberman openly campaigns against Abbas, it makes the PA president look good in the eyes of his people.
It would have been worse for Abbas had someone like Liberman heaped praise on him, which would have made him look bad in the eyes of most Palestinians.
Abbas’s aides were quick to take advantage of Liberman’s call, with some even talking about an Israeli “conspiracy” to get rid of their leader simply because he is refusing to make concessions to Israel.
One official said he did not rule out the possibility that in the end Abbas would meet the same fate as his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who was holed up in his presidential compound in Ramallah by the IDF in 2002.
Yet what is perhaps most encouraging for Abbas is the fact that the US and most EU countries have rejected Liberman’s “incitement” against the PA president.
If anything, Liberman’s campaign against Abbas has for now served the interests of a leader who has already lost much of his credibility among his constituents.