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After purge of political enemies, Fatah unanimously picks Abbas to remain party leader

Posted by Tip Staff - November 29, 2016


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was unanimously chosen to lead the Fatah party for another five years at a convention that excluded his political opponents, further strengthening his hold on the party while cementing the rifts in the Palestinian polity.
Excluded from the conference were supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas rival and former Gaza security chief now living in exile in the United Arab Emirates. Many of Dahlan’s supporters have been purged from Fatah or arrested.
Dimitri Diliani, who had been elected to Fatah’s Revolutionary Council in 2009, told The Times of Israel that he wasn’t invited to this year’s conference because he and other opponents of Abbas “bring a different voice.”
“To me, the story is who is not at the conference,” Grant Rumley, an analyst of Palestinian affairs told The New York Times “This conference will formalize the split within [Abbas’] own party.”
The conference, which was held for the first time in seven years, demonstrated Abbas’ continued grip on Fatah and the PA, which is suffering from infighting, financial troubles, and plummeting popularity. But it did not lay out a succession plan for Abbas, who is 81 years old and was recently hospitalized with heart problems. The PA cancelled planned municipal elections for this month that could have clarified the succession issue. Currently, if Abbas is incapacitated or leaves power, leadership of the PA would temporarily fall to Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik, a member of Hamas.
Polls show that many Palestinians want Abbas to resign. He was elected in 2005 to a four-year term and has ruled by decree since 2009. Abbas established a new court in April to further consolidate his power.


An IDF general gave an exclusive interview to a Saudi newspaper on Monday in which he highlighted the danger Iran poses to the region. Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, the spokesman of the IDF, told the Saudi-owned news outlet Elaph, based in London, “Iran has not changed, not before the agreement on the nuclear program or after it. Its objective remains the same, which is to maintain a foothold in the region and keep the fire of terrorism burning.”
An article in The Jerusalem Post in August highlighted the phenomenon of local and state-run media outlets in Saudi Arabia beginning to shift their long-held position of enmity toward Israel. Recent changes include quoting Israeli officials; asking Saudis to discard their “hatred of Jews”; and calling for direct talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, free from intermediaries. David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy branded the pivot as “the new normal,” saying that while pragmatic, behind-the-scenes dialogue between Israel and Arab countries is “nothing new,” the presence of two sides in public forums marks an undeniable turning point. “What is noteworthy today is that the issue is being actively and openly debated in major Arab media, with both proponents and opponents each having their say.”
In other signs of this slow but persistent change, Anwar Eshki, a former general who has served in senior positions in the Saudi military and foreign ministry, visited Israel in July as part of a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen. Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold gave an interview last year with a Saudi website, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was likewise recently interviewed by the Saudi media.
Salman al-Ansari, the founder and president of the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee, wrote in The Hill last month that Saudi Arabia and Israel should form a “collaborative alliance.” He elaborated, “Any form of normalization between the two countries is also an Arabic and Muslim normalization towards Israel, which will undoubtedly promote security and weaken extremism in the region.” Israel and Saudi Arabia should “become the new twin pillars of regional stability.” The Saudi Gazette asserted in September that Abbas should not dismiss Israeli offers of peace out of hand because “Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation.”


A vessel belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) trained its machine gun at a U.S. Navy helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, U.S. defense officials said Monday. The helicopter was flying in international waters. A U.S. Navy official said that Iran’s behavior was “unsafe and unprofessional” and constituted an “escalating measure.” A Defense Department official added, “The behavior by our standards is provocative and could be seen as an escalation.” One of the Iranian crewmen was seen loading the weapon before aiming it at the helicopter.
This is the latest example of Iranian aggression toward American vessels in the Persian Gulf. In September, Iran threatened to shoot down two American planes flying over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran hasincreased its aggressiveness in the Persian Gulf since the implementation of the nuclear deal in January: as of this past September, there had been 31 incidents between Iranian and U.S. ships in 2016 that deemed “unsafe”, “unprofessional,” or both, which is the same amount for all of 2015. “We’ve seen an uptick in confrontations by Iranian vessels in the Arabian Gulf,” Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, said in August. “Ultimately if they continue to test us we’re going to respond and we’re going to protect ourselves and our partners.” Votel also said, “It’s about the Iranian regime and their desire to continue to do these types of things that stoke instability or attempt to stoke instability in the region.”
Seven armed boats of the IRGC Navy swarmed a U.S. Navy patrol ship in the Persian Gulf in September, forcing it to change course after the Iranians came within 100 yards and stopped their vehicles in the American ship’s path. Sailors aboard the USS Nitze recorded an encounter in August when Iranian boats came as close as 300 yards, forcing it and the USS Mason to change course to avoid a collision. Two weeks later, two U.S. patrol coastal ships, the USS Tempest and the USS Squall, were operating in international waters in the northern Gulf when IRGC boats approached them at high speed and passed within 600 yards of the Tempest three times. The Iranians ignored radio warnings that their actions were dangerous. These actions came just a few months after ten American sailors and their two boats were seized by IRGC naval forces in January of this year, in violation of international law.

Edwards Lifesciences, a leader in patient-focused innovations for structural heart disease and critical care monitoring based in the US, has announced that it has agreed to acquire Valtech Cardio, a privately held company based in Israel and developer of the Cardioband System for transcatheter repair of the mitral and tricuspid valves. The deal is said to be worth up to $690 million in its first stages — $340 million in stock and cash, with the potential for an additional $350 million in pre-specified milestone-driven payments over the next 10 years. Prior to the close of the transaction, which remains subject to customary closing conditions and is expected in early 2017, Valtech – which specializes in the development of devices for mitral and tricuspid valve repair and replacement — will spin off its early-stage transseptal mitral valve replacement technology program. Edwards retains an option to acquire that program as well and its associated intellectual property, which could then push the total acquisition closer to $1 billion. (via Israel21c)

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