Why Did Israel Save the Life of the Palestinian Leader?

Thursday, January 24, 2019 |  Ryan Jones

Mahmoud Abbas has been a thorn in Israel's side. He's refused for the past several years to negotiate with Israeli leaders, and continues to approve blatant incitement against the Jewish state in Palestinian schoolbooks, to list but a couple of his violations of signed peace agreements.

So, why did Israel rush to save the life of the Palestinian leader when he fell severely ill last year?

According to Israel's Ynet news portal, in May 2018, Abbas got a severe ear infection which developed into pneumonia and other health complications. His own doctors in Ramallah were said to be concerned that the 83-year-old Abbas was near death.

Fearing a Palestinian power vacuum that would be quickly filled by Hamas, or just a general state of chaos that would facilitate a fresh wave of terrorist violence against local Jews, Israel reportedly offered to move Abbas to an Israeli hospital that could offer him more advanced care.

Not wanting to appear to be the kind of "collaborators" that Abbas himself so often derides, the Palestinians turned down the offer.

But Israel wasn't ready to just let him die, so, a source told Ynet, the Jewish state sent one of its top medical experts on Abbas' particular illness to Ramallah. Two days later, Abbas was on the road to recovery, and a few days after that, he was discharged and back to work.

Even so, Abbas' medical scares have become more and more frequent over the past two years, and it's clear to all involved that he won't be able to serve as leader of the Palestinian Authority for much longer.

War of succession

Israel and the United States have reportedly been maneuvering to get someone more amenable to genuine peace and coexistence into the position once Abbas is gone, but the current Palestinian leader is believed to be resorting to violent intimidation to ensure his own preferred successor takes the reins after him.

Adnan Mjalli is an American-Palestinian billionaire who lives in North Carolina, but is no stranger in the West Bank. He recently served as an advisor to US President Donald Trump on Palestinian economic affairs.

Israeli officials from across the political spectrum have long viewed economic incentives and the growth of joint Israeli-Palestinian business ventures as the key to true peace, and Mjalli could be just the man to help make that happen. He's also said to have been a liaison between the Trump Administration and a Palestinian leadership that has refused to publicly treat with the current occupant of the White House.

Needless to say, Abbas isn't keen to let a man whose own views more closely align with Israel's and who has been chummy with the reviled President Trump take over as head of the Palestinian Authority. Israel's Channel 13 news reported this week that some two months ago, Mjalli was visiting the West Bank when a bomb was detonated next to his car. He wasn't in the vehicle at the time, and so was unharmed, but the attack was seen as a warning for Mjalli to stay out of the race to succeed Abbas.

Abbas has made clear that his preferred successor is Nablus Governor Mahmoud al-Aloul, an old-guard PLO official like himself. Aloul currently serves under Abbas as deputy chairman of the ruling Fatah faction. Like Abbas, Aloul no longer openly advocates terrorist violence, but often justifies it, and remains bitterly hostile toward Israel. With the Palestinian Authority under Aloul's leadership, most expect that the peace process would remain in a state of stagnation.

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