מיכאל מילשטיין
Michael Milstein
Veteran Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub

Jibril Rajoub's problematic Palestine

Analysis: If the veteran Fatah official, who trades in incessant anti-Israel slogans, does indeed end up as the next Palestinian president, Jerusalem may find itself dealing with a dangerous successor to Arab nationalist and extremist Yasser Arafat

Michael Milstein |
Published: 10.13.20 , 12:53
While the Palestinian Authority finds itself mired in a state of deep depression, it seems as though Fatah secretary-general and central PA official Jibril Rajoub is shining in triumph.
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  • Rajoub is using the strategic crisis brought on by Israel's normalization agreements with Bahrain and the UAE to build himself up and claw his way into the president's seat the day after Mahmoud Abbas vacates it.
    Veteran Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub Veteran Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub
    Veteran Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub
    (Photo: Amit Shabi)
    Rajoub is solidifying his position by inciting against Israel, calling for the nullification of all agreements, advancing the peace talks between the Fatah-dominated PA and the Hamas terrorist organization and promoting a model of "popular resistance" - fighting against Israel mainly by way of rioting and civil unrest.
    This method, Rajoub insists, will facilitate cooperation with long-term rival Hamas and will even be received with understanding and even sympathy in the international arena.
    The rest of the PA leadership, Abbas included, have displayed caution and even reluctance towards the moves being pushed by Rajoub. But despite this, Rajoub’s vigorous promotion of such ideals may end up turning these plans into reality.
    Such a step would return the PA leadership to a familiar pattern of being mired in an unwanted situation despite fighting to avoid it.
    Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 28, 2020 shows Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) meeting with Jibril RajoubEgyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 28, 2020 shows Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) meeting with Jibril Rajoub
    Jibril Rajoub, left, meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry last month
    (Photo: AFP)
    Rajoub is currently not in power in the PA political, security or economic spheres.
    He is an authentic leader reflective of the generation that led the Palestinians on the eve of the First Intifada in 1987, during which he was pushed to the sidelines by the Palestine Liberation Organization as it took over the PA.
    Now, due to his growing influence, Rajoub is expected to take over the helm of the PA after the departure of Abbas, who is a relic - albeit a powerful one - of the organization’s founding generation.
    אבו מאזן במועצת האו"םאבו מאזן במועצת האו"ם
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the UN Security Council in February
    (Photo: Reuters)
    It appears that Rajoub is developing a head start over other presidential candidates, due to his combination of ambition and the personal attributes needed to become the next Palestinian national leader.
    Rajoub's elevation above other candidates is down to him belonging to a peripheral family from the town of Dura in the southern Hebron Hills, where senior members of Fatah and Hamas live together side by side, as well as his years of field work for Fatah, many years of imprisonment and his command of the PA security system.
    Yet despite his apparent qualifications, nothing is guaranteed. Rajoub has many enemies whose animosity and fear towards him only grow with each passing day.
    It is not out of the realm of possibility that these hostiles will devolve into violent disputes further down the line.
    Furthermore, Rajoub himself has yet to paint himself as any sort of visionary, especially in the eyes of the younger generation tired of political corruption and revolutionist propaganda that has never managed to translate into a better collective future.
    Jibril Rajoub with Britain's Prince William in the West Bank in 2018 Jibril Rajoub with Britain's Prince William in the West Bank in 2018
    Jibril Rajoub with Britain's Prince William in the West Bank in 2018
    (Photo: MCT)
    Despite its intense preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic and its consequent political and economic repercussions, Israel must stand vigilant and be aware to any shifts in the Palestinian political system in general and Rajoub's political strength in particular.
    If he continues to adhere to his anti-Israel slogans, or tries to translate them into action, he may end up becoming less of a successor to Mahmoud Abbas and more of a successor to Arab nationalist and extremist Yasser Arafat.
    For this reason Israel must remain vigilant and cautious, and refrain from acting as a king maker by dabbling in internal Palestinian politics, which it has done before to disastrous results.
    סאלח אלעארורי עם ג'יבריל רג'וב בלי מסכותסאלח אלעארורי עם ג'יבריל רג'וב בלי מסכות
    Rajoub, third left, meeting with Hamas leaders in Istanbul
    At present, Israel should focus on two central moves: First, use every possible channel - secretly through external mediators and via the media - to make the situation clear to Rajoub himself, to the upper echelons of the PA, and to the Palestinian public.
    They must understand what will come to pass if Rajoub’s inciteful slogans are indeed translated into action.
    Secondly - and more importantly - Israel must work to help end the acute crisis within the PA that began on May 19, which acts as a fertile ground for extremist ideas and actions.
    Such a crisis will further destabilize the civil and security stability in the West Bank, which is a crucial strategic asset for Israel.

    Michael Milstein is the head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies


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