Abbas Won’t Change

It’s become hard to believe anything the Palestinian president says

abas markazi

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the Palestine Central Council (PCC)‘s long-awaited meeting in Ramallah was disappointing. He made no mention of the key issues over which there has been a Palestinian popular outcry for firm decisions, such a withdrawing recognition of Israel, ending security cooperation with it and rescinding the Oslo Accords. The suspicions of the Palestinian factions that refused to attend the gathering – such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front/General Command – turned out to be well grounded.

In his address, Abbas repeated what he said in numerous other speeches, including that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is bereft authority and that this situation cannot be allowed to persist. But he did not urge Palestinians to escalate their uprising against the occupation nor offer them any support.

True, he voiced admiration for the First Intifada — which eventually led to the creation of the PA via the Oslo Accords’ concessions – and disapproval of the second, armed, uprising, and affirmed his belief in peaceful popular resistance But in actual fact he wants no intifada at all, be it peaceful or armed, but only some small-scale protests against Israel’s colonial settlement activities.

Jerusalem is to be excluded from the ‘Grand Bargain’ being devised by the Trump administration, and the village of Abu-Dis designated capital of a desiccated Palestinian state lacking either sovereignty of borders. But Abbas failed to mention who conveyed that offer to him – namely, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – nor what he plans to do to confront this US-backed Israeli attempt to eradicate the Palestinian cause.

Convening the PCC in Ramallah was a deliberate ploy to exclude opponents of the PA and of Abbas’ policies from the issue and ensure it ends with a non-committal declaration that contains nothing new. Even if the statement slams the occupation and the Oslo Accords and demands withdrawing recognition from Israel and ending security cooperation with it, its decisions and declarations stand no better chance of being implemented than the similar ones issued by the same Council in 2015.

Abbas argued that he did not want the PCC to meet outside Palestinian territory. Does that mean the ‘liberated’ Gaza Strip is, for example, Venezuelan territory? Why doesn’t Abbas convene the PCC there, especially as the PA and its Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah have been handed back control of all its ministries and government departments from Hamas?

It has become difficult to believe anything Abbas says, including about halting contacts with the US administration in protest at Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. How can he declare he is breaking off contacts with the US and refuse receive Vice-President Mike Pence, and then issue an invitation to the US Consul in the occupied city to attend the PCC meeting? Were it not for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – which threatened to boycott the meeting if the invitation was not withdrawn – the US diplomat would doubtless have attended and been treated as a guest of honour.

Abbas has shown once against that he has not changed and will not change. He is persisting along the path of catastrophic negotiations process to ensure that he and his clique remain at the pinnacle of power. Any people who accept such a state of affairs deserve no better leaders.

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