AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas used an Arab proverb to rebuff attempts by Israelis to intervene in the Palestinian elections.
Jibril Rajoub, the secretary of the Fatah movement, said the head of Shabak (internal Israeli elections), Nadav Argaman, tried to stop their efforts to create a joint list with Hamas.
“He visited the Palestinian presidential compound and made threats to all of us,” Rajoub said on Palestine TV. The Israeli official who said he was carrying a message from the Israeli prime minister was accompanied by an American official. Palestinian sources say that they believe the US official is part of a US intelligence service.
Abbas reportedly answered the Israeli official, who is fluent in Arabic, using an Arabic proverb: “Drink your coffee and may God be with you.” It is a polite way of rejecting the request.
Lina Haddad, an expert on Arab proverbs, said that people use proverbs as an indirect way of avoiding saying something harsh.
“He wanted to send a message that I am being kind to you by serving you coffee as a guest of mine but do not abuse my hospitality,” Haddad told Arab News.
Rajoub fiercely criticized Argaman’s boss, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying he “is worse than Mussolini.”
The idea of a joint Fatah-Hamas list was first mentioned in the Istanbul talks between Rajoub and the deputy head of Hamas, Saleh Aruri, in 2020.
Hamas, which had acceded not to contest the presidential elections, then agreed to allow for legislative polls to take place two months before presidential elections.
Former Fatah central committee member Naser Al-Qudwa issued a strongly worded statement opposing the idea regarding the joint list, calling it “undemocratic” and that it “smells of personal gains on the account of the people.”
Al-Qudwa has since created the Palestinian Democratic Assembly and is planning to run on a non-Fatah list of independent Palestinians. Abbas has ordered that Al-Qudwa be removed from the Fatah movement and has fired him as the head of the Yasser Arafat Foundation.
Mohammad Daraghmeh, a veteran Palestinian journalist, told Arab News that the joint list faces many problems, especially with Hamas’ demand to have the same number of seats as Fatah. Daraghmeh said the Israeli security chief also threatened to stop the elections and warned against the efforts by Palestinians to try Israelis for war crimes.
Fadi Elasalameen, senior fellow with the American Security Project, told Arab News that he was not surprised that Israel does not want Hamas in the West Bank. “But, I find it hard to believe that Abbas, who depends entirely on Israeli security to stay in power in the West Bank, would speak in such a way to the Israeli head of Shabak. It is election season and it does not hurt Abbas to flex his political muscle.”
Three lists, including one by the Democratic Front for Palestine, have officially registered to run. The window of nominations closes on March 31.
Salam Fayyad, Al-Qudwa, and others have yet to propose their list for the elections. Efforts are also being made to unify left-wing Palestinian factions into a single list.