The only thing surprising about Friday night’s Channel 12 revelation that the Palestinian Authority is attempting to influence the outcome of the upcoming Knesset elections was that it was reported as a big scoop. Though credit is due to Arab-Israeli contributor Mohammad Magadli for the exclusive item, it’s by no means the first time that the P.A. has tried to meddle in election cycles in the Jewish state.
Nor was it a shock to learn about Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) fears that Iran and Russia are colluding to sway the results of the Nov. 1 vote, mainly through the use of targeted, algorithm-driven mind-control methods on social media.
But whereas the former was presented as a direct appeal on the part of the P.A. to Israel’s Joint (Arab) List to prevent opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu from reassuming the premiership, the latter is being portrayed as an effort to wreak political havoc in general, without a clear candidate in the crosshairs.
One would think that Netanyahu hasn’t been the world’s most prominent voice warning against the threat of a nuclear Iran, or that he played no part in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal reached three years earlier between the P5+1 countries and the Islamic Republic. Russia, meanwhile, is among those permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that pushed for the JCPOA in the first place and is currently engaged in trying to persuade Tehran to return to it.
Ditto for Britain, France, Germany and China—all of which, along with the administration in Washington—are waiting with bated breath for the mullah-led regime to approve the “final text” of an updated JCPOA that was submitted to all parties earlier this month.
While Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday urged German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism, to walk away from the agreement, he is not viewed abroad as a force to be reckoned with, certainly not by the ayatollahs.
Any bots deployed by Russia and Iran to cause Israeli electoral chaos, then, are geared towards thwarting the Likud Party’s ability to garner the necessary number of mandates to enable Netanyahu, who is seen in Tehran as a serious player on the international stage, to forge a coalition and head the next government in Jerusalem.
Which brings us back to the Palestinians. According to Magadli’s “breaking news,” P.A. General Intelligence Services chief Majed Faraj, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, held two secret meetings in Ramallah last week with Joint List politicians: the first with the bloc’s leader, Hadash Party head MK Ayman Odeh and Ta’al Party leader MK Ahmad Tibi; and the second with Odeh and Balad Party chair MK Sami Abu Shahadeh.
Faraj pressed upon Odeh, Tibi and Abu Shahadeh the importance of re-incorporating the Ra’am Party into the Joint List. Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas had split from the bloc of Arab-Israeli parties ahead of the Knesset elections on March 23, 2021, and ended up not only passing the electoral threshold but—in an unprecedented move for traditionally anti-Zionist Arab parliamentarians—joining the coalition.
Faraj explained that their running together as a united bloc would increase voter turnout among Israel’s Arab citizens and improve the odds of denying Netanyahu the 61-seat majority he would need to form a coalition; as if Odeh and his cohorts weren’t aware of this already.
Their own internecine battles might make the plan moot, however.
Still, the powwows between Arab-Israeli parliamentarians and the P.A. about stymying Netanyahu’s electoral prospects are significant, especially when considering the context. Faraj is a close associate and “strongman” of P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas.
While Odeh & Co. were plotting against Netanyahu in Ramallah, Abbas was in Germany causing a ruckus. During a joint press conference on Tuesday with Scholz in Berlin, Abbas was asked by a journalist whether he intended to apologize for the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli coaches and athletes at the summer Olympics in Munich.
The question was not only relevant given the upcoming 50th anniversary of the mass murder committed by members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September; it was particularly apt considering that Abbas was named by the mastermind of the attack, Mohammed Oudeh (aka Abu Daoud), as one of three senior Fatah officials who assisted in orchestrating the massacre.
“If we want to go over the past, go ahead,” Abbas replied to the question. “I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed … 50 massacres, 50 slaughters, 50 holocausts.”
The outcry that these remarks subsequently elicited from Scholz, Lapid and many other figures in Israel and abroad, caused Abbas—who was hailed upon his return to the P.A. by an otherwise disgruntled populace—to issue a “clarification.” This so-called “walk back” consisted of a “reaffirm[ation] that the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history,” and a doubling down on the “crimes and massacres committed against the Palestinian people since the nakba [the ‘catastrophe’ of Israel’s establishment in 1948] at the hands of the Israeli forces … [which] have not stopped to this day.”
He figured, based on decades of experience, that this was sufficient to keep E.U. funds flowing into his terrorist coffers, despite the opening of a preliminary inquiry by Berlin police into whether his comments violated German law. Let’s not forget that he knows his customers—or, in this case, patrons. You know, the same Europeans on the verge of allowing Iran to pull the wool over their eyes for a second time by agreeing to a dangerous nuclear deal that the Islamic Republic won’t honor in any case.
The P.A. and Iran, which bonded over a shared hatred of Trump’s “deal of the century”—the precursor to the Abraham Accords and therefore loathed by the peace rejectionists in both Ramallah and Tehran—have a common interest in blocking Netanyahu.
Israelis must take this into account at the ballot box.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”