Abbas' Successor Will Take a Strict, Harsher Stance Toward Israel, IDF General Warns

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Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas gesturing as he speaks during a Christmas lunch with members of the Christian Orthodox community on January 6, 2016 in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, earlier this month.Credit: AFP

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories said Sunday that any potential successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will adopt a strict, harsher policy toward Israel.

Addressing a conference of Israeli ambassadors from around the world at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Mordechai said that "since Mahmoud Abbas' latest announcement on his intended resignation, the question of succession has become an open discussion in the Palestinian Authority - it is no longer a conversation that only occurs in whispers," according to sources in the room. "Every leader after Abbas will be required to be more dominant and popular, which means adopting policies that are more harsh toward Israel."

According to sources who attended the talk, Mordechai did not mention any potential candidates who may succeed Abbas. Mordechai also noted that the situation in the West Bank is severe and stressed that the Israeli government and security establishment still regard the Palestinian Authority as a body that Israel can work with. He added that the security establishment's conduct in recent months has been cautious and balanced - therefore, the Palestinian public did not take to the streets and rioting significantly decreased.

During his talk, Mordechai said that there was no Palestinian Authority guiding hand behind the attacks of recent months, but noted the existence of incitement against Israel on Palestinian media.

Later, President Reuven Rivlin took the podium and also discussed the Palestinian issue, the mounting international pressure on Israel, and leveled an implied criticism of the government's policies regarding these issues.

"The power of diplomacy has not depleted, something that today remains evident," Rivlin told the Israeli ambassadors. "It is evident even in the Middle East jungle, and perhaps for a reason. We mustn't let the absence of a diplomatic horizon to condemn us to passivity. It must not be allowed in the current absence of a political process, that we will be condemned to passivity.  The improvement in the state of the relations between the two peoples is a distinct Israeli interest which must go alongside the active and assertive defense of the State of Israel and its citizens."

Rivlin also mentioned the French initiative to convene an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said that Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius hinted at it in their last meeting at his residence a few months ago. Rivlin noted that it was his impression that Fabius was coordinating his moves with other countries. "It is proper that the dialogue between us and our close allies on issues relating to the security of Israel and its citizens should be conducted in a direct manner, not above Israel's heads," the president said.

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