Opinion: While hawkish lawmakers consider the Palestinian leader an enemy, he is the only thing standing between this already precarious reality in the West Bank and another Intifada

Tuesday, the day of the terrorist attack in Ariel, also happened to be Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s 87th birthday.

Not by chance, this was also the anniversary of his predecessor Yasser Arafat’s announcement in Algeria on the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in 1988.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013
Netanyahu needs Abbas in power (Photo: Getty Images)


The Palestinian state might’ve never materialized, but Abbas is still the chairman of the Palestinian Authority 17 years on.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who is poised to retake the premiership, could surpass him, assuming he serves a full four-year term and Abbas retires due to his advanced age or other factors.

What is certain is that Abbas’ leadership in the next few years might be more consequential to the Palestinian reality in the West Bank than Netanyahu’s sixth term.

Although perceived as somewhat weak and lacking legitimacy from the Palestinian public, and even as a terrorist in the eyes of the Israeli right, his ability to maintain control might just be the element that makes Netanyahu’s reign more manageable.

These are indeed tense times and the number of casualties on both sides is only rising, yet Abbas is the one with his finger in the leaking dam, with the help of the Palestinian security forces.

The security situation on the ground at the moment is a teaser for the flood we are going to see here, an even bigger eruption than we have witnessed so far, and the Palestinian Authority and its president are the ones holding back the great drift, along with the Shin Bet and the IDF – who were also recently labeled as enemies of the religious Zionist movement.

Netanyahu, his conservative bloc allies Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, and others can mouth off all they want about Abbas being a bitter enemy, but the reality is he and the PA are the only thing separating us from another Intifada — one might require IDF forces to wrest control anew over major Palestinian cities and refugee camps indefinitely.

This is not just a security problem. It’s an infrastructure problem. A full-on IDF occupation would mean managing sewage systems, water management and electricity supply for millions of Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority security forces in balaclavas stand by an armored vehicle at the entrance to Balata camp, near the West Bank city of Nablus
Palestinian Authority security forces in balaclavas stand by an armored vehicle at the entrance to Balata camp, near the West Bank city of Nablus (Photo: AFP)


That’s a scenario that even the most ardent right winger would rather avoid.

Hamas, not wanting to get upstaged, would likely use a mass uprising in the West Bank as a pretense to launch rockets into Israel.

Much to its chagrin, if the Israeli far-right wishes to stabilize the security situation and establish a foothold in power, it will have to achieve peace and in order to do that it will need a strong and stable Palestinian Authority with adept leadership. And that means Abbas in power

His control, while diminished, is still palpable, in proof of that would be him successfully persuading wanted persons in Nablus to turn themselves in and hand over their weapons (with some Israeli assistance, of course).

The day after Mahmoud Abbas may introduce Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s Israel to a much less stable and much more violent Palestinian leadership that will create chaos.

Any future defense minister, even if it will be Smotrich himself, who does not wish to create a suicidal situation for the State of Israel and its citizens, will have to pray for the stability of the Palestinian Authority and the health of the 87-year-old president.

As reported by Ynetnews