May 27, 2003

Abbas Watch Curious about new

Abbas Watch

Curious about new Palestinian PM Abbas' chances at reining in Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades? Here's a pretty judicious primer.

Key excerpts:

"How much domestic support does Abbas have for a crackdown?

ItŐs hard to judge. According to a recent opinion poll conducted by Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, 72 percent of Palestinians believe Abbas should be given a reasonable amount of time to prove himself. At the same time, though, terror groups are estimated to have the support of roughly a third of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. Experts say Abbas, who was appointed by Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat at the urging of the United States and Israel, fears concessions to Israel could provoke a backlash from Palestinians who already view him as too heavily reliant on foreign support."

Is Abbas capable of conducting a crackdown?
Not at the moment, most experts say. Israeli military activity over the two-and-a-half years of the current intifada has reportedly severely damaged the Palestinian security apparatus in the West Bank and, to a lesser degree, in the Gaza Strip, that was built up following the 1993 Oslo peace accords. According to Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project at the Council on Foreign Relations, it will take about six months to rebuild the Palestinian AuthorityŐs security forces.

Does Abbas have control of the Palestinian security forces?
No. According to The New York Times, Israeli and Palestinian officials have said that though the Palestinian AuthorityŐs roughly 14 security agencies now formally report to the new Palestinian security minister, Muhammad Dahlan, in reality more than half still report to Arafat. The prime minister is making efforts to consolidate his control and trying to root out Palestinian Authority security forces still loyal to Arafat. Abbas has announced he will make several new appointments in the Interior Ministry and is reportedly considering replacing all of the police commanders in the West Bank, press reports say.

Officials from Shin Bet, IsraelŐs security service, have said that they believe Palestinian security forces could overcome militants in Gaza. But experts say that a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank could prompt a lengthy conflict. Abbas, though, is reportedly determined to appoint a West Bank security chief capable of restoring order there."

Posted by Gregory at May 27, 2003 12:58 PM
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