Ahead of Palestinian Elections, Fatah Is Splintering

2021 will be a wild ride for Palestinians—and Israelis.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas speaks in Ramallah in the West Bank on Sept. 3, 2020.
ALAA BADARNEH/POOL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Ahead of this year’s Palestinian elections (May for the parliament, July for the presidency), politicians are in election mode. The elections don’t bode well for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. His party, Fatah, is being weakened by infighting.

Abbas announced the elections in January, presumably to improve his image as a supporter of democracy for incoming United States President Joe Biden. But Abbas’s marketing campaign seems to have backfired on him. Abbas is 85 years old and has been running the Palestinian Authority as a dictator since 2004 (he was only supposed to have been elected for a four-year term). He’ll be running for president this election; if he wins, he would be almost 90 when his term expires.

Many people in his Fatah party are increasingly against his rule.

A person of note is Mohammed Dahlan. Formerly considered a terrorist by Israel, he ended up being one of the main negotiators of the Oslo Accords. He served as Fatah’s head in Gaza, but split with Abbas in 2011, according to rumors, due to Abbas’s jealousy over his political ambitions. Since then, Dahlan has lived in exile in the United Arab Emirates. Ever since the announcement of the elections, rumors have circulated that he would find a way to run for the presidency. He currently is backing a list of rivals against Fatah. And Dahlan stated last month that he had plans to form his own political party.

Since his exile in the United Arab Emirates, Dahlan has served as a major adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Evidence suggests that Dahlan helped organize the Abraham Accords, which saw Israel and the U.A.E. open up diplomatic relations. Many Palestinians, including Abbas, were livid; they saw recognizing Israel without the Israelis withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza as a stab in the back. Dahlan is also close to Egyptian President Fattah Abdel al-Sisi, one of the few Arab leaders on (relatively) warm relations with Israel.

Another man to watch is Nasser al-Kidwa. While Kidwa has disassociated himself from Dahlan, he is no friend to Abbas. That’s despite Kidwa being Abbas’s nephew. A former Fatah member himself, Kidwa has received many threats from the Fatah establishment. They don’t like his weakening of the party. The threats apparently haven’t dissuaded him.

For the election, Kidwa has partnered with Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist serving time in an Israeli prison for his role in the Second Intifada. He is popular among Palestinians and many see him as a prominent contender against Abbas. He may even run for president—despite being in prison in Israel.

Fatah has, for decades, been seen as the main Palestinian political-military faction. It was led by Yasser Arafat for much of the 20th century. Since the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, it has rebranded itself as a political party. Fatah runs under a secular, socialist, pan-Arab platform. This put it at loggerheads with Islamist parties like Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip. Since the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Fatah has dominated it politically. When Arafat died in 2004, Abbas replaced him as leader of Fatah and has ruled the party ever since. The latest challenges to Abbas’s leadership definitely attacks the Palestinian status.

While Abbas is no friend of Israel, his iron grip on power has stopped more radical groups like Hamas from controlling the West Bank. If Fatah’s grip on West Bank politics is weakened through infighting, this could give Hamas the opportunity it’s been waiting for to enter the West Bank.

The elections could also lead to radicalization of Fatah itself. Fatah under Abbas’s leadership isn’t considered particularly radical compared to other groups in the Middle East. His vision of Palestinian independence was based on diplomatically outfoxing Israel rather than waging war. If somebody like Barghouti takes control of the party, we could see a Fatah ready to take its territory by force.

If Fatah doesn’t radicalize, it could still ramp up pressure against Israel. If Dahlan or somebody associated with him got power, there would be increased pressure for Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories. Given his involvement in the Abraham Accords, Dahlan could tell the Israelis that, since he gave them the Arab peace treaty of their dreams, it’s now their turn to withdraw from the West Bank. The heavy Israeli military and civilian presence in the region makes it unlikely that Israel would withdraw. This could sour the relations between Jerusalem and Ramallah even more. It would also make Israel look bad to the international community.

And even if Abbas does win the election, he is very old and his grip on power is not what it used to be. If anything, an Abbas victory would be a small delay for the problems Israel will have to face.

No matter how the Palestinian elections go, Israel loses.

And that’s exactly what the Bible prophesies for the State of Israel.

The Bible from Genesis to Revelation centers on the city of Jerusalem. So it would make sense that it would have something to say about the situation in Israel today. After all, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mainly a struggle about who will control Jerusalem.

A prophecy in Zechariah 14 reads: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the woman ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity …” (verses 1-2).

Jerusalem has seen more than its share of war and bloodshed in its long history. But for most of that history, it was not a divided city. The only time it has been “halved” was when the Israelis and Arabs occupied separate parts of the city in the first two decades after World War ii. Jerusalem was once again reunited in 1967.

This isn’t a prophecy about the division of the city in the late 1940s. The reference to the “day of the Lord” dates this to the future. The “day of the Lord” is the time period right before the coming of the Messiah, a yet future event (see Joel 2:31 ).

This means that Jerusalem will be divided soon. And who desires half of Jerusalem—by any means necessary—more than the Palestinians? Zechariah 14 indicates a violent takeover. This implies that Mahmoud Abbas and his diplomacy tactics will be leaving soon.

For more information, request our free booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy.

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