The head of Israel's Shin Bet security service visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in early March in a bid to get him to cancel the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections, Kan public broadcaster reported on Wednesday.
The 90-minute meeting, also attended by the head of the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence service, Majed Faraj, and another senior PA official, Hussein al-Sheikh, was described as "fraught" by one Palestinian official, with another accusing Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman of acting in “a very rude, patronizing manner," according to the report.
Argaman reportedly told Abbas, “You can’t hold elections with Hamas.” To that, Abbas retorted, “I don’t work for you.”
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Argaman then warned that the election could bring Hamas to power in the West Bank. Abbas responded, “You’re telling me this? Who built Hamas? Who transfers $30 million to Hamas every month? You [Israelis] built Hamas.”
After Abbas flatly refused to cancel the May election, the two discussed the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas.
Argaman threatened that “if you cooperate with the investigation in The Hague, we’ll stop transferring the taxes” that Israel collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf. Abbas answered, “I have nowhere else to turn to, and I have a complaint about your actions.”
In response, Argaman threatened that Israel would file its own complaint to the ICC against the PA. Abbas responded, “As far as I’m concerned, you and I can sit together in the same prison cell.”
The report said the Shin Bet declined to comment. But Israeli officials said the wording and tone of the quotes weren’t necessarily accurate, adding that it may have been convenient for the Palestinians to present what transpired in this way due to Abbas’ own political problems.
This comes after the revelation that prominent Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is jailed in Israel, is set to submit an independent list for the parliamentary election alongside Yasser Arafat's nephew Nasser Al-Qudwa, in a move perceived as a major threat to Abbas' standing.
President Abbas announced earlier this year that Palestinians will head to the polls for the first elections in more than a decade. After May's parliamentary elections, presidential elections are set for July.
Though Parliament members and presidents are voted in for four-year terms, this year's vote would be the first parliamentary elections in 14 years and first presidential ones in 15.