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Ex-Palestinian Authority Intelligence Official Describes the Coming PA ‘Gang War’

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A former Palestinian intelligence officer predicts that after Mahmoud Abbas dies, there will be increased fighting on the West Bank, not by the Palestinian Authority against the IDF, but in a “gang war” pitting three different factions of Fatah against one another, each trying to gain control of the PA. His analysis can be found here: “PA not interested in military showdown with IDF – ex-PA intel commander,” by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, September 18, 2022:

Palestinian Authority security forces are not headed toward an armed confrontation with the IDF, in spite of the involvement of some PA officers in recent attacks in the West Bank, a former senior Palestinian intelligence officer said on Sunday.

Fahmi Shabaneh, former PA General Intelligence Force commander of the Hebron area, said the attacks that were carried out by a number of individuals belonging to various Palestinian security services did not reflect the stance of the Palestinian leadership.

The Palestinian Authority and its security forces are not interested in a military showdown with Israel,” Shabaneh said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

The recent shootings of Israelis by a handful of members of the PA’s security services, Fahmi Shabaneh claims, do not reflect a change of policy at the top, but only decisions by individuals working for the PA security services who have, on their own, decided to engage in terror attacks. He says there has been no change in Abbas’ policy; he has no desire to engage in a conflict with the IDF, but intends to continue security coordination with the Israelis. One wonders if this is true, or if Shabaneh is only fooling himself, or trying to fool the Americans, so that they don’t read Abbas the riot act, and cut aid to the PA

The PA was also unlikely to halt security coordination with Israel in light of the latest tensions and violence, especially in the northern West Bank,” Shabaneh said.

Shabaneh is referring to the sudden upsurge in violence in the northern cities of Nablus and Jenin by members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. These terror groups are mortal enemies of Israel, but are also rivals of Fatah. When the IDF rounds up, arrests, or kills their members, it is not only protecting Israelis, but helping the PA to regain control of areas that had been lost to Hamas and PIJ.

“The Palestinian leadership considers the security coordination to be sacred,” he said, sarcastically echoing Abbas’s 2014 controversial statement that the security coordination with Israel is “sacred” and will continue. “That’s why they won’t stop the security coordination with Israel.”

It is hard to know if Shebaneh really believes that the PA “won’t stop security cooperation” with Israel. That implies it has been continuing that cooperation even as some members of its security services have attacked Israelis. Viewed from the outside, given the four attacks on the IDF launched since July 30 by members of the PA security services, it might seem that that “security cooperation” no longer exists. But Shabaneh attributes those attacks to lone-wolf terrorists, acting without the approval or knowledge of the PA leadership. As a former senior intelligence officer for the PA, Shabaneh certainly knows a great deal about the extent, and duration, of that security cooperation, and Abbas’ understandable reluctance to publicize it, given the reaction of the Palestinians he rules. And four attacks by individuals is not very many, when one considers that there are thousands of men in the PA’s security services, and hundreds of terrorist attacks that those security services have every year helped to foil.

Shabaneh pointed out that most of Abbas’s senior aides support the continuation of the security coordination.

Those aides understand that the IDF is their best protection against their violent rivals in Hamas and the PIJ, and that security cooperation with Shin Bet and the IDF pays other dividends as well, American aid to the PA is more likely to continue, and even increase, if the Israelis report favorably on the results of that security cooperation.

Shabaneh recalled that when he was commander of the General Intelligence Force in the Hebron area, his officers (who came from the same area) often refused to carry out his orders to arrest certain people for fear of retribution by members of rival clans.

“I had to bring officers from outside Hebron to carry out arrests because my men were too afraid,” Shabaneh revealed. “Each [Palestinian] security officer is worried about his and his family’s safety. The officers know that the Palestinian security forces won’t be able to protect them if something bad happens to them.”…

In Hebron, the clans are unusually powerful. A PA security officer who is the member of one clan, who is then sent to arrest the member of a rival clan, would refuse to do so, fearing retaliation against him or his family by that other clan. The only solution was to choose an officer from outside Hebron, and its clans, to make the arrest.

“President Abbas controls the central West Bank,” Shabaneh said. “[Fatah Secretary-General] Jibril Rajoub and [Fatah Central Committee member] Abbas Zaki are in control of the southern West Bank. [Fatah Central Committee member and former commander of the PA General Intelligence Force] Tawfik Tirawi and his friends control the northern West Bank, especially Nablus.”

The internal bickering within Fatah, which is related to the battle to succeed the 87-year-old [sic] Abbas, has resulted in the division of the West Bank into three regions that are controlled by competing parties, Shabaneh noted.

“This will lead to a dangerous escalation in .....-Abbas era,” he cautioned. “If there are no elections [in .....-Abbas era], the security situation will deteriorate.”

The likely scenario is one of Fatah warlords battling for control of the PA once the rais in Ramallah has died. Like Roman Gaul, the Fatah lands are divisa in partes tres, divided into three distinct territories. According to Fahmi Shahbaneh, Jibril Rajoub and Abbas Zaki control the southern part of the West Bank. Abbas’ anointed successor, Hussein al-Sheiikh, will inherit the central West Bank that Abbas still controls; finally, Tawfik Tirawi controls the northern West Bank, including Jenin and, especially, Nablus. Unless the PA holds elections soon after Abbas dies, leading to a legitimate leader taking power, a likely three-way conflict between the rival Fatah leaders will erupt, akin to the war that broke out between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in 2007.

Abbas wants to choose as his successor to head the PA someone he can trust not to force his sons Yasser and Tarek to disgorge some of their undeserved hundreds of millions. Similarly, Abbas’s cronies do not want to be forced to return some of the millions that Abbas allowed them to steal. The Americans and Israelis, according to Shabaneh, only want one thing: a PA leadership that will continue security cooperation with Israel. But how valuable will that cooperation really be, if the PA has “lost control” of the West Bank, as Shabaneh asserts? Perhaps the IDF will be able to suppress Hamas and PIJ in the West Bank, as it now appears dead set on doing, and then, once the “gang war” between the three Fatah factions has been settled, the victorious faction in the PA will, without Abbas’ baggage, be able to resume control of the territory.

Shabaneh accused Abbas and his senior aides of working to silence their critics within Fatah.

Abbas is 86 and in poor health. Like Yassir Arafat before him, he does not brook criticism. He has refused to call an election in 17 years. 80% of the Palestinians polled want him to resign. He has stolen vast sums from the aid money donated to the PA He has recently lost control of much of the West Bank, where Hamas and PIJ have been winning support, especially in Nablus and Jenin. If criticized, Abbas accuses his critics of corruption in a display of shameless tu-quoque. As Shabaneh says, “everyone in the PA is corrupt.” It’s only a question of who Is to be made an example of, by arresting him for corruption, and who, on the other hand, will be permitted to continue with his corruption. Anyone who criticizes the leadership can be accused of corruption – Abbas knows exactly who in the PA has been stealing, and how, and how much. 

They [the PA] have something called the Anti-Corruption Commission,” [Shabaneh] said. “They use this commission whenever someone speaks out against President Abbas. They go after that person and try to silence him by accusing him of involvement in corruption. But of course we know that they are all corrupt. The corrupt officials are afraid of losing the money they accumulated over the years. If any one of them speaks out, he will be threatened by the Anti-Corruption Commission. That’s why most of them remain silent.”

The truly incorruptible, like Abbas’ fearless critic on social media Nizar Banat, have to be silenced a different way. Banat was beaten to death by Abbas’ goons.

The Palestinian future in Shabaneh’s view is distinctly dark. He predicts that there will be an armed conflict in the West Bank after Assad dies — not a civil war, for ordinary people will not take part though, they will certainly suffer.from its violence, but a “gang war” pitting rival warlords who now control the northern, central, and southern parts of the Palestinian West Bank. He predicts an unpromising future for what cannot be a unified state, with a government that commands respect and loyalty of its people, but at best, it will be, a fissiparous, corrupt, and enfeebled polity. And yet we are expected to believe in that will-o’-the-wisp, a “two-state solution,” and the Bidenite mantra about the Palestinian people who deserve “an equal measure of prosperity, security, and freedom.”

Do the Palestinians, who for decades have had foreign largesse lavished upon them, but show few signs of being capable of hard work, or of entrepreneurial flair, “deserve” prosperity? Why? Similarly, do the Palestinians deserve “security”? No one threatens their existence. It is they who have tried to make life insecure and miserable for Israeli civilians, by launching thousands of terrorist attacks against them, murdering men, women, and children, on busses, at pizza parlors, at Passover dinners, synagogues, and in their homes. Have the Palestinians earned the right to “security”? And do they deserve “freedom”? How likely is that, anyway? They have never known any rule but that of thieving despots – both in Hamas, and in the PA And why should one expect a Palestinian state to be any different from the existing 22 Arab states, all of which are ruled either by monarchs or dictators, with the sole and dubious exception of Tunisia?

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