Palestinian Power Struggle
© July 2003 by Asher Intrater
The political situation in Israel remains in a precarious balance at this moment and is in need of much prayer. Here are some factors for you to weigh:
There is a three-way struggle for power within the Palestinian community. The first group, by far the more righteous of the three, is prime-minister Abu Mazen and his cabinet, along with security minister Dahlan. The second is the militant Islamic groups, such as Jihad and Hamas. The third is the Fatah group following Yasser Arafat.
Arafat is fighting Abu Mazen, which might have been expected. However this week the language is getting stronger. Arafat referred to Abu Mazen as a traitor. Abu Mazen walked out of the Fatah central committee meeting. Prayer here could make a big difference: either Arafat could undermine Abu Mazen completely, resulting in chaos and bloodshed, or it could mean a turning point where Abu Mazen's group wins out, and once and for all Arafat is defeated.
Jihad and Hamas are continuing with their inflammatory language against Israel, but on the other hand have agreed to continue with the "Hudna" ceasefire. Relatively speaking, that is a good sign for now.
There was one successful terrorist attack this week. A Jihad loyalist from Jenin snuck into an apartment in the village of Yabets (a name known in the Christian world in the form of the English translation 'Jabez'), killing a 65 year old grandmother. While this is a terrible attack, it is the only attack that there has been this week, and the terrorist is assumed to have been a fringe element and does not represent an effort of Jihad or Hamas to break the ceasefire.
These two weeks have been the time with the least terrorism for almost three years. Israeli security forces reported that they are receiving 20 reports of planned terrorist attacks per day! - That, as compared to the 60 per day that was taking place at the end of last month. Hard to say if that is good news or bad news.
Most of the news reports describe Abu Mazen as a weak leader. Well, I'd have to say that that depends on how you are counting weakness. With the three-way power struggle among the Palestinians, he certainly does not yet have the upper hand. In terms of people and weapons, he does not have strength. In addition, he has not come out with a demand for dismantling the terrorist groups with the threat of imprisoning or shooting offenders.
(His professed policy has been to try not to start a civil war with Fatah, Jihad and Hamas. He would rather try to bring unity to his people by getting them to accept the idea of a legislative government, which at this point is going to take some time.)
In contrast, Abu Mazen has made the most courageous statements that any Palestinian leader has made until this point in history. He certainly does not represent my view, but it is a whole dimension better than anyone else has dared to state. Some would say that this is just words. That is true. But politics is a lot about words.
The Israeli press reports that Abu Mazen has ordered a removal of street murals and graffiti that encourage terrorism against Israel. He stopped the programs on Palestinian television that were propaganda against Israel. He has even ordered that new textbooks be written for Palestinian schools that are not pro-terrorism. Furthermore, he is standing openly in opposition to Arafat. I believe those actions show a lot of courage and integrity. He is certainly risking his life to stand for such measures.
One of the big demands of Abu Mazen toward Israel is to release more of the Palestinian prisoners. He claims this will help to show that he has accomplished something that greatly improves the life of the Palestinians. This presents a certain moral problem to the Israeli government. How can they release prisoners that have been a security problem? On the other hand, how can they not release prisoners when this is one thing that they can do to support Abu Mazen and continue a peace process?
(The problem for Israelis is not so much that these prisoners would represent a great security threat in the future, but rather the moral repulsiveness of releasing those who have helped terrorism in the past.)
Israeli press also reports that Abu Mazen has stated that although he is bitterly disappointed that Israel has not released more prisoners than they have, he does not blame Israel for the current crisis in the peace process. He said that the real problem right now is the inner struggle for power within the Palestinian community. That is saying a lot: instead of the usual anti-Israel mantras and bantering, he is actually saying that the Palestinians have to take responsibility for their own part in causing the crisis.
The key members of the Palestinian cabinet and the Israeli cabinet that are working together still maintain a desire to make the ceasefire efforts succeed. In other words, those close to Sharon and Abu Mazen want to continue to work together. They do not see one another as the problem. The pressure on Abu Mazen is from Fatah, Jihad and Hamas; on Sharon from the ultra-right wing faction of his coalition.
Pray for Sharon and his cabinet to have wisdom concerning the prisoner release, for courage for Abu Mazen in standing up to terrorist factions, for the destruction of Arafat's influence, for the public opinion among the Palestinians to turn away from the militant groups, and for God's will to be done in this current crisis.
Personal Note: I write this update hurriedly as we have just returned late after a long trip to an Israeli Army base where our second son received today a promotion from corporal to sergeant. He serves in the same division that our eldest son does (as lieutenant), as well as a dear friend who is a unit commander. All three are known among the soldiers in the division for their faith in Yeshua. At the ceremony I went up and introduced myself to the colonel who is their overall commander. He shook my hand warmly and said, "Thank you, you people make some fine soldiers." To God be the glory.