October 26, 2015 | Policy Brief

Attack on Abbas Critic Could Presage Further Intra-Palestinian Violence

October 26, 2015 | Policy Brief

Attack on Abbas Critic Could Presage Further Intra-Palestinian Violence

Masked assailants attacked the prominent Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti outside his Ramallah home on Saturday, stabbing him in the face and reportedly shouting, “Let the intifada protect you.”

Barghouti has been the victim of internecine violence before. At a protest near the Qalandiya checkpoint in 2012, Barghouti told reporters he was wounded by an Israeli tear gas canister hitting him in the head. Yet witnesses told the New York Times that rival Palestinian groups attacked him and his third-party movement, the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI).  PNI, or al-Mubadara in Arabic, is a periphery Palestinian political party that campaigns on an anti-corruption, reform-based platform in the West Bank.

In 2005, Barghouti and PNI garnered nearly 20 percent of the votes in the presidential election against Mahmoud Abbas. The next year, PNI joined a coalition of third-party independent groups on a joint list in the Palestinian legislative elections, where Barghouti won a seat in the Palestinian parliament.

Today, the 61-year-old Barghouti polls at roughly 5 percent among Palestinians vying to be the next president. He has become a prominent critic of the Abbas regime in recent years. Notably, he has accused Abbas of preventing other Palestinian parties from taking part in what has become a very stifled political arena. He has also chided Abbas’ failed strategy of seeking statehood at the UN Security Council.

Amidst the recent upheavals in the West Bank, Barghouti has called upon Abbas to end the PA’s security cooperation with Israel, a key component in maintaining calm. Indeed, Barghouti is a proponent of what he calls the “people’s resistance,” which is a veiled shot at Abbas and the older Palestinian leadership, who seek to avoid a popular uprising for fear of instability that could undermine their grip on the West Bank.

Intra-Palestinian violence is not unprecedented in times of violence against Israel. Historically, Palestinian factions have exploited the chaos during major Palestinian uprisings to strike at political rivals, and even to settle personal scores. During the first and second intifadas, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas regularly attacked their rivals, accusing them of collaboration with Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership may be trying to avoid a full-fledged uprising, but the longer the current violence simmers, the more likely internecine attacks may become, which would only add to the chaos on the streets of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Grant Rumley is a research analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @GrantRumley


Palestinian Politics