Palestinian Power Struggle

How long can Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas last? Locked in a power struggle with longtime Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat, Abbas plans to address the Palestinian parliament in early September -- and may ask for a vote of confidence. If he does, he's not sure to win it. Speculation is growing that Abbas may resign, dealing another blow to the U.S.-sponsored "road map for peace," which the Prime Minister committed to trying to follow in June.

In office just 100 days, Abbas' political position has taken a turn for the worse since the militant group Hamas carried out a devastating bus bombing in Jerusalem on Aug. 19, killing 21 people. That led to deadly Israeli reprisals against Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab and other militants. Hamas declared the temporary cease-fire that Abbas had brokered to be over. Abbas had hoped that the cease-fire would ease pressure on him to "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure," as the road map requires.

Now, Washington and Jerusalem are calling for him to act decisively to arrest militants. Abbas lacks the power to do so because Arafat still commands most Palestinian security forces -- and refuses to cede control. "Arafat wants a Prime Minister just in name," says Sattar Kassem, a political scientist from al-Najah University in Nablus. On Aug. 27, Arafat asked militant groups to renew the cease-fire -- another sign he aims to keep calling the shots rather than let Abbas play a more prominent role and take the lead on waging peace.

By Mark Weiss in Jerusalem

Edited by Rose Brady

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