Date: 07/08/2020 Time: 14:50
Pinhas Inbari – Veteran Arab affairs correspondent and analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
The brother of the PA senior, Hussein a-Sheikh, his name is Khalil a-Sheikh, was killed by shooting in the middle of families quarrel in Ramallah city center (al-Bira). The killer is a member in the Preventive Security organ. ).
there are two implications to the murder: the struggle for Abu Mazen succession that is becoming hotter, and the dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority.
As for the succession run, there are reports on the web that Hussein a-Sheikh was the target and the killer mistook him for his brother. There is no evidence that this was the case and as for now we have to take the report at face value – that he was a victim of a hamula shootout.
Nevertheless, about a year ago, when I met one of my Tanzim leader’s friends in Ramallah, I asked him what will happen if Majed Faraj will win the succession race and becomes the leader – the Tanzim leader replied with no second thought – we shall shoot at him (mintukho)
So, we have to keep in mind that assassinations can be a legitimate tool in the race. Actually, Majed Faraj has already escaped an attempt on his life some years ago.
Why have we mentioned Majed Faraj in the context of Hussein a- Sheikh? Because in the succession race, they are united in one group together with Mahmud al-Habbash, Abu Mazen main Islamic preacher. Also, Habbash escaped an attempt on his life when he served as minister for the Waqf in Ramallah several years ago. The shooter shot through the window of the ministry and his he-secretary was wounded. Frightened Habbash left his ministerial position to become the ra’ees advisor on religious affairs.
What does the Faraj-Sheikh-Habbash group represents? The good relations with Israel, the USA and Saudi Arabia. They are suspected by the other groups to accept the Trump plan once it will be put on the table again. This sensitivity is exposing them to life attempts also in the future.
Who competes with them for leadership? Several groups. The weakest one is represented by Jibril Rajub. His origins are in the Hebron countryside, but he is not accepted there, and he rarely goes there. He tried to build supporters from the football fans, but it did not break the family kinships that remained the solid base of the political structure in Hebron and its countryside.
His football power base has linked him to Qatar, and he represents its interests in the PA. As a result, he is a persona non-grata in Egypt and Saudi Arabia- although Dahlan tried to reconcile him with Egypt, but I think that this attempt failed as was evident in his new move with Hamas. In a big fanfare, he declared a new reconciliation attempt with Saleh Aruri, but while the media described it as a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation it was not – it was an attempt by the side of Qatar to get rooted in the WB. Abu Mazen gave it a green-light because of the chilly response he got from the Arab League on his distress calls on the annexation initiative. But, as a matter of fact Rajub was left alone and he did succeed in mobilizing the Fatah behind him, neither Hamas Gaza was impressed by the move.
The third group is the most dangerous – this is the “Arafat Group” led by Abbas’ second in Fatah, Mahmud al-Alul and we can identify with the group members in “Western Front” command in Amman under the leadership of late Abu Jihad that was responsible on the terror attacks on Israel during the Arafat time in exile.
According to our sources in Nablus, Alul is building a strong militia explaining that Israel is planning a new Nakba and the Palestinians have to prepare, but everybody understands that not fear of the Nakba leads him but to fight for leadership.
But we have to keep in mind that the murder last night might be truly of families in a fight.
This is of no less importance, because this marks another station in the dismantlement of the PA, this time in Ramallah itself.
Only two weeks ago a similar incident took place in a village near Nablus. The Palestinian police tried to impose a lockdown, but the merchants refused to close the shops. The local Tanzim appeared to protect the merchants and in an exchange of fire an officer of the police was killed.
It was the militia against the state force- parallel to the watershed between Faraj and Alul.
This way or another, the killing of the brother of one of the candidates of the race for Abbas succession in Ramallah city center is a strong red light about the future of the PA.