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Abbas loyalists remained mum on Tuesday regarding the leader's specific plan, but documents leaked from the president's headquarters point to a departure from frontal opposition to Israel in the international arena and instead, entering and exploiting the Israeli political system to achieve his ends. The documents contain, among other things, an analysis of various Israeli political parties and the conclusion that the one most ripe for a takeover by Abbas is Meretz, which might not even notice that he had done so.
Experts caution that even if the documents are authentic, prudence dictates they be treated with skepticism until other pieces fall into place. "The timing, reasoning, and methods all make sense, but I would caution against assuming this scenario represents what we should necessarily expect in the coming months," said political analyst I. C. Dedpipple. "For one thing, if this is the real deal, we should be seeing Abbas meeting with, for example, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, an even that Abbas could use to help gain an understanding of where and how he would fit in among the diverse elements of the Opposition." Herzog traveled to Ramallah last week to meet the Palestinian president.
Complicating such a scenario, said Dedpipple, is the current Meretz leadership. "I can't see Zehava Gal-On or Ilan Gilon just moving out of the way," he explained. "Mahmoud Abbas might be their ideal candidate, embodying everything they've ever campaigned for, but that doesn't mean they don't like their jobs. If something happens, expect a fight."
Dedpipple noted that Gal-On's hold on the leadership is not as tight as it could be. "When preliminary election results came in after the elections this past March, it looked like Meretz was only going to get four seats in the Knesset, down from five - which itself is pitiful compared to the twelve they commanded back in the early nineties. Gal-On offered to step down. She didn't have to, because absentee ballots eventually gave Meretz a fifth seat, but it's clear she's aware how close to disaster she led the party - and it's got to be even clearer to anyone seeking to oust her."
Still, says commentator Hanan Krystal, Abbas faces an uphill political battle. "Aside from having his hands tied in terms of whom he can arrest just to get them out of the way, Abbas is at an electoral disadvantage," said Krystal. "In a general election he might bank on Arab Israelis to vote for him - not a given, mind you, considering how wary Arab citizens are of Abbas and his corruption-infested regime. But before that he has to secure the support of the Meretz rank and file in a primary, and, unfortunately for Mr. Abbas, he's just not distinguishable from any of the other emerging candidates."