By Sparing Israel, Abbas Deepens Palestinian Split
21 June 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian National Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, is playing a very
dangerous political game. At the same time as he is placing less pressure on
the belligerent Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, he is keeping
Palestinians further apart.
Even when the 81-year-old leader no longer maintains his position, the legacy
he has stubbornly espoused for over a decade will further fragment
Palestinians for years to come.
While Israel has rapidly increased its rate of land grab in the West Bank,
occupied East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and declared yet more plans to
erect illegal Jewish colonies, Abbas has decidedly backed down from pursuing
the matter at the United Nations.
In a sudden, but not unfamiliar move, Abbas elected to postpone pushing
through with a UN Security Council Resolution that aims at condemning Israel's
land seizure and continued illegal construction on Palestinian lands.
The resolution would once more have put Israel's illegal practices, which
violate international law, back on the agenda of the international community,
at a time that Palestine has been either overlooked or sidelined.
This move even infuriated some in Abbas' own party, who find his decisions
these days quite indefensible.
The PNA hastily tried to explain the decision and defend Abbas' stance, which
will spare Israel the burden of international censure, alleging that the
postponement of the resolution is necessary to give France the needed space to
conduct an international peace conference.
However, the definite irony in all of this is that France's proposed
conference, slated for later in the summer, has no clear agenda, and is
predicated on the frivolous and unrealistic assumption that a so-called
two-state solution is still achievable.
In fact, it was the illegal Jewish colonies that made such a 'solution'
untenable in the first place. By postponing the resolution for the sake of
another deluding and elusive peace mirage, Abbas has shown his incapacity to
lead his people at a time of immense challenge and much bloodletting, and
moreover, at a forum which was ideal for the needs and voices of the
Palestinian people to be understood and heard.
Relevant to all of this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has
flagrantly rejected the French peace conference anyway.
In a short statement, his office repeated the same mantra that: ''Israel
adheres to its position that the best way to resolve the conflict between
Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations''.
Of course, Israel, an occupying power, has shown no interest in a justly
negotiated solution as it continues to harvest Palestinian lives daily,
confiscates more land and subjugates Palestinians who are ruled by the
military orders of the Israeli army. No fair 'direct negotiations' can
reasonably take place in these circumstances. Predictably, Netanyahu is fully
aware that his 'offer' is a mere distraction in order for him to win the
needed time to finalise the colonisation of whatever little remains of
Palestine. However, Abbas is equally aware of that. The subliminal message his
actions voice is clear — the ageing leader seems to be, in fact, trying to
facilitate the Israeli effort, not thwart it.
The suggestion that Abbas' advanced age could possibly explain some of his
bizarre recent statements is not satisfactory. For example, without much
fanfare, Abbas had recently established a 'constitutional court' composed of
some of his closest supporters. The nine-member court ''will have supremacy
over all lower courts,'' reported Newsweek.
''It's a blatant power grab,'' Grant Rumley, a research fellow at the
Foundation for Defence of Democracies told Reuters. ''From Abbas's standpoint,
this is his way of both thwarting his rivals in Hamas and securing his Fatah
party's hold on the Palestinian [National] Authority once he is gone.''
Abbas currently rules over Palestinians by decree, not democratic elections
since his four-year term expired in 2009.
Moreover, according to the Palestinian Basic Law, drafted 14 years ago, in the
president's absence, the government is to be run by the speaker of the
Legislative Council, who is a member of Hamas.
Abbas is cunning enough to establish a constitutional court to ensure the
dominance of his followers once he is gone, yet seemingly lacks the wisdom or
even the desire to understand the priority of uniting his people during a time
of hardship, and rapid loss of land and life.
Not only did Abbas fail miserably in his mission as the leader of the
Palestinians, he seems to stand for nothing aside from serving the interests
of a rich, albeit small class of West Bankers, while repeating the time-worn
cliches of peace and peace process.
''We won't act like them, we will not use violence or force, we are peaceful,
we believe in peace, in peaceful popular resistance,'' was his message issued
in October, only days after incidents took place in which Palestinian youth
were accused of attacking Israeli soldiers and colonists with knives.
Just two weeks before Abbas made that statement in which he referred to some
illusory 'popular resistance' under his command, a poll conducted by the
Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah revealed that a
majority of Palestinians, in fact 65 per cent of respondents, want him to
Abbas' 'peace' is, of course, quite selective. He rules over occupied
Palestinians with an iron fist, rarely tolerates dissent within his party's (Fatah)
ranks, and has done his utmost to isolate Gaza and sustain a state of conflict
with his enemies in Hamas.
More recently, and due to mere criticism levelled at him by the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine, a prominent Palestinian faction and PLO
member, Abbas decided to choke them of funds. In Abbas' 'peaceful' world,
there is zero room for tolerance.
The PFLP criticism was in response to statements he made on Israeli
In the interview, he insisted that security co-ordination with Israel is a top
priority for him. Without such co-ordination, the PNA will find itself ''on
the brink of collapse,'' he told Israel Channel 2 on March 31.
Apart from apprehending suspected Palestinian resistance members, the security
co-ordination includes searching school children's bags for knives, according
to the Palestinian leader. ''Our security forces are entering schools and
checking if students are carrying knives. In one school, we found 70 students
with knives, and we told them that this was wrong. I told them I do not want
you to kill someone and die; I want you to live and for others to live, too.''
Abbas' statement on life and death does not, in the least, address the context
of oppression, the humiliation of military occupation and the prevailing sense
of despair that exists among young Palestinians, caught between an aggressive,
violent occupation, and a submissive leadership. In fact, he failed to address
the anger that exists within even the Palestinian youth due to the occupation.
Convincing them not to 'kill someone and die, ''involved the security forces
arresting the students who were found with knives, questioning them, torturing
them and threatening their families,'' wrote Palestinian commentator, Munir
''We only need to listen to the experiences of many who were tortured by the
Israeli Shabak and the Palestinian security agencies, who said that the
Palestinian security agencies are harsher, more barbaric and more brutal than
the Shabak,'' Shafiq wrote in Arabi21.
However, it is essential that the discussion does not entirely focus on Abbas,
for he is merely representative of a larger, more sinister class of usurpers
who have used the Palestinian cause to advance their own positions, wealth and
True, it has been a decade of unmitigated failure of Palestinian leadership,
but it certainly took more than Abbas to manage that political fiasco. Now, at
81, Abbas seems to have become a scapegoat and mouthpiece for an entire class
of Palestinians which has worked to manage the occupation and benefit from it.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include ‘Searching Jenin', ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest
'My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. His website is: