Mahmoud Abbas: Failing the Palestinians and Peace

The Palestinian president takes an even more drastic totalitarian turn.

[](/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/12/Mahmoud-Abbas-AP.jpg)Mahmoud Abbas, (aka Abu Mazen) has been a failure as the Palestinian “Rais.” He failed to lead the Palestinian Authority (PA) toward peace with Israel, and he mismanaged the alleged goal to achieve statehood for the Palestinians. Instead of facing the tough issues and making compromises required in negotiating peace and statehood with the Israelis, Abbas chose an alliance with the Gaza controlled terrorist group Hamas. Following Abbas’ pact with Hamas last April, Israel broke off peace negotiations with the Palestinians, just days before the talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry were scheduled to expire.

Abbas isn’t only confusing Israelis, Americans, and is his Europeans patrons, he is perplexing his own Palestinian consituents. Following last summer’s Gaza War between Hamas and Israel, Abbas threatened to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) and saught to indict Israel on war crimes. PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki met with the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC last August to explore ways of joining the court by PA President Abbas signing the Rome Statute.  When, however, the U.S. Congress threatened to cut off all funding to Palestine if Abbas filed war crimes charges against Israel, Abbas backed off. At the same time though, Israel’s Prime Minister threatened to counter-sue, alleging that the rockets fired by Hamas terrorists into Israeli civilian areas constituted “double war” crimes.

The Israeli Law Center called Shurat-HaDin, led by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner submitted a complaint against Mahmoud Abbas in the ICC for “war crimes.” The complaint claims that Abbas may be tried for his responsibility in the missile attacks targeting Israeli cities, executed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which Abbas heads. It charges that Fatah, also led by Abbas, was responsible for several missile attacks on Israeli cities. Darshn-Leitner pointed out that Fatah leader Abbas may be tried by the ICC. Abbas is a citizen of Jordan and Jordan is a member-state of the ICC. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed by a citizen of a member state. Darshan-Leitner added, the organization “will not allow Fatah to carry out rocket attacks on Israeli population centers, while hypocritically advocating Palestinian membership in the ICC. Abbas falsely believes that alleged crimes against Arabs are the only ones that should be prosecuted.”

A week ago, Abbas threatened again. This time he fingered the security co-ordination with Israel following the death of Ziad Abu Ein, 55, PA Minister without Portfolio. He promptly backtracked. On November 29, 2014, Abbas declared  that if the United Nations Security Council rejects the Palestinian statehood resolution, he will seek membership in the ICC. He said, “We will seek Palestinian membership in international organizations, including the International Criminal Court in the Hague. We will also reassess our ties with Israel, including ending the security cooperation between us.”

Abbas’ latest gambit is a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that would force Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria (West Bank) within two-years. According to press reports, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry requested to postpone the Palestinian initiative at the UNSC until after the Israeli elections, (March 17, 2015) but the Palestinians refused. PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki intimated to reporters that there was disagreement between the Americans and Palestinians on how the elections in Israel would or wouldn’t advance the PA UNSC resolution. Kerry believed that a UNSC vote before the elections would impact adversely on the winners. In other words, a vote before the elections would strengthen Netanyahu and the Right in Israel. Maliki argued that a vote before January, 2015 would be rather positive.

At a closed meeting last week with 28 EU ambassadors, John Kerry revealed that he was asked by former Israeli president Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni to prevent the Palestinian initiative at the UNSC because it will help “Netanyahu and Bennett (Jewish Home Party chairman) in the upcoming elections.” Maliki posited that Kerry himself has not abided by his pledge not to intervene in the Israeli elections.

Also last week in London, Secretary of State Kerry met with Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, and according to a PA senior official, Kerry posed a number of U.S. principles that should be included in the Palestinian UNSC resolution. Kerry supposedly refused the two year time period demand by the PA for Israeli withdrawal. The resolution as Kerry suggested should include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as well as U.S. opposition to declare Jerusalem as a joint capital for Palestine and Israel. Erekat rejected the U.S. proposals. Kerry declared afterward that the U.S. does not accept the Jordanian (presenting the Palestinian resolution)  and French resolutions. He warned that if the Palestinians insist on presenting the resolutions, the U.S. would use its veto power. Erekat rejected Kerry’s ideas, and insisted that the resolutions would be submitted. As of December 25, 2014, Abbas rejected an Arab League request to delay the submission of the Palestinian statehood until January when five new members who support the Palestinian cause will join the Security Council.

Abbas’ gambits notwithstanding, the increased authoritarianism of Abu Mazen is reflected in a recent survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. It indicates that 66% of Palestinians are afraid to criticise Abu Mazen and the PA, and 80% consider the PA institutions to be corrupt and infected with nepotism. Last summer, according to the survey, support for Abbas (Abu Mazen) declined to 35% from 50%. “There is no doubt about the fact that outlawing freedoms and rights, especially of professional unions, is a factor in Abbas’ decline in popularity,” said Dr. Khalil Shikaki, one of the survey takers. 

PA security agents inspect what is written in the social media, and threaten those who criticize Abbas. Abu Mazen critics point out that after a decade in power he is controlling all systems of government to such an extent as to minimize all resistance. Perceived political rivals such as Mohammad Dahlan, who once served as Abu Mazen’s assistant, and Salam Fayyad, the former Prime Minister of the PA, are vilified by Abbas. Following the Palestinian Unity government formation, headed by Rami Hamdallah last May, elections were to follow. But, once again, internal squabbling prevented it, and added to it was Abbas’ fear of a Hamas victory.

Abu Mazen’s strategy for the establishment of a Palestinian state has reached a cul-de-sac.  None of his gambits proved successful. His rivalry with Hamas is bitter and ongoing, despite the alliance he forged at the expense of negotiations with Israel. And, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, he balks at the idea of ‘ending the conflict’ with Israel. He knows full well that this might be a death sentence for him, targeting him for assassination. It is for this reason that Abbas and the PA are unlikely to forgo the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Israel for its part, cannot accept such a demographic suicide. This is why Abbas would rather avoid negotiations with Israel and bypass it by going to the UNSC. It is also the ostensible reason why peace with Israel cannot be achieved, and as a result, the Palestinian people continue to suffer political and economic deprivation. Abbas has not been the solution to the Palestinian problems; rather, he has been responsible for failing them.

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