Date: 17/11/2022 Time: 20:50
By Pinhas Inbari
On the eve of the attack in Ariel, there were important meetings of Azzam al-Ahmad, Mahmoud Abbas’ loyalist in Beirut, with Musa Abu Marzouq, one of the leaders of Hamas, and then he went to Damascus for meetings with the PFLP, and on the face of it, it seemed as if there was a connection between the meetings as if all the Palestinian organizations were joining forces in terrorism against Israelis, but according to sources in Ramallah, the picture is different.
According to these sources, Azzam al-Ahmad was sent to Beirut and Damascus to jointly evaluate the results of the Israeli elections, and the message that al-Ahmad carried with him was that since the Israeli government is supposed to include Smotrich and Ben Gvir, there is a great opportunity for the Palestinians to create a rift between Israel and the United States, and it is worth taking advantage of this. He sought to avoid terrorist attacks in the near future, instead invigorating the model of the first intifada, the popular intifada, in order to give an international justification for the Palestinian struggle, which could be tainted by terrorism, if the cells in the West Bank associated with Saleh Arouri, head of the Hamas/West Bank district, would use terrorism precisely during these days, which are days of opportunity for the Palestinians.
According to the sources, Azzam al-Ahmad praised the Algerian mediation between Hamas and Fatah, saying that Hamas and the PFLP must recognize the PLO as leading the struggle, because the PLO has international recognition, and a struggle under its banner will receive international legitimacy. He said that the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, was waging a very successful campaign to contaminate Israel’s international reputation and that he should be given a chance to continue. It should be noted that Riyad al-Maliki was in the past himself a member of the PFLP.
Al-Ahmad’s need to travel to Damascus to meet PFLP officials indicates that Hamas’s attempt at reconciliation with Assad has not been successful, and Assad is not allowing the Hamas leadership to return to his capital. Therefore, Azzam al-Ahmad met with Hamas members in Beirut and the PFLP in Damascus. The absence of Saleh Arouri may indicate that he will not give up terrorism.
The attack in Ariel showed that there is a limit to what Hamas/West Bank sector can do. It can lift them, but it cannot lower them, because of the unbearable level of incitement in the Palestinian media on the one hand, and because of the violent provocations of the hilltop youth of settlers on the other, there is a high motivation for lone wolf attacks, and this phenomenon is difficult to control, only in the cessation of incitement, and the restraint of Jewish violence, and this is not going to happen soon. Maybe the other way around.
Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.