Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Abbas' chosen successor extremist Maher Ghneim due on West Bank Wednesday

July 28, 2009, 8:47 PM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile disclosed exclusively Monday, July 27, that Abbas wants to crown the Tunis-based veteran advocate of armed resistance to Israel, long-time head of the PLO's armed groups' personnel, 71-year old Maher Abu Ghaneim to be his No. 2 and successor as Fatah leader - if he manages to stage the Fatah general conference next Tuesday, Aug. 4 in Bethlehem. A backstage drama took place Monday, July 27, around US Middle East envoy George Mitchell's shuttle between Jerusalem, Cairo and Ramallah behind the discussions on the peace process and Israeli settlement construction: It centered on the Abbas' desperate attempt to bring off the first general conference of his Fatah faction in 25 years next Tuesday.

It is still up in the air, although Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister, whom the Palestinian leader has boycotted until now, now granted Abbas' request to let Ghaneim attend the conference although Abbas' heir apparent has fought all negotiations with Israel tooth and nail. He arrives Wednesday, July 29.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak weighed in by asking Mitchell to make an unscheduled side trip to Cairo Sunday, July 26, in the middle of his meetings with Israeli leaders. Mubarak told the US envoy that it was up to him to persuade Israel to help make the Fatah conference a success. Otherwise, he said, Abbas would be finished and forced to retire, taking with him the Obama administration's hopes for an Israel-Arab peace process taking off before the end of September.

Netanyahu still has to decide the following:

1. Should Israel allow 400 Fatah delegates based in the Gaza Strip to cross through Israel on their way to the Bethlehem conference - that is if the rival Hamas which rules the enclave lets them out? Hamas' price is that the Fatah-ruled West Bank administration release all Hamas detainees and obtain Israel's consent for their passage.

3. Should Israel must also admit Fatah delegations to the conference from Yemen, the Gulf emirates, Algeria, Lebanon and Syria, knowing they are the hard core of the Palestinian terror organizations operating in those countries?

4. The Netanyahu government is informed a priori that the majority of the approximate 1,500 delegates to the Fatah conference are radicals who will object to any move to drop the Palestinian movement's commitment to "armed struggle" against Israel.

Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader who is serving 5 life sentences in an Israeli jail for orchestrating lethal terrorist attacks, posted a circular letter Sunday to all delegates telling them they must not renounce violent resistance to Israel, including suicide attacks, even for the sake of aid from the West.

The Israeli government therefore finds itself in the hugely anomalous position of being badgered by the United States, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to help launch a Palestinian conference which is certain to be as radically anti-Israeli as the Islamist Hamas, thereby extending a lifeline to the US-promoted "peace process."

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