Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced recently that he would accept all the outcomes of the conference of the factional secretaries-general held last month in Beirut. They included an end to the internal division, unity between all of the Palestinian factions, and restructuring the PLO so that Hamas and Islamic Jihad in particular can join.
Such measures are needed urgently, the secretaries-general of the factions said, in order to face the threats against the Palestinian cause at the top of which is normalisation between Arab states and Israel, as well as the US deal of the century. The people of Palestine and the factions have been waiting for this to happen. According to Hamas after its officials held bilateral meetings with Fatah, a timetable for the implementation of these goals would be declared before the start of October. Fatah officials said that Abbas would issue a presidential decree setting the date for elections after delivering his speech to the 75th meeting of the UN General Assembly. Abbas has made his speech and today is 1 October, but no timetable has appeared, and no election date has been announced.
I don’t think anything will actually happen because Abbas, who heads the PLO and Fatah as well as the PA, is not serious about his pledges to the secretaries-general or to the Palestinian people. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that he was lying about ending the Palestinian division, uniting the factions and restructuring the PLO.
Abbas continues to use his armed wing in the West Bank — the PA security services — to keep a tight grip on Palestinian necks in the occupied territory. He has ordered the security services to crackdown on his opponents within Fatah and the PA itself because of their alleged links to his rival, the former senior Fatah official and security head Mohammed Dahlan.
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Under Abbas, the PA is still restricting people’s freedom to protest, even against the Israeli occupation. He controls the Transitional High Judicial Council, which he formed as a substitute for the freely-elected parliament and to serve his own interests. Moreover, his hands are still extended to the Israeli occupation, which continues to kill Palestinians, steal their resources and demolish their homes, instead of extending them to his own people.
This was very clear in his speech at the UN General Assembly, where he stressed that he wants a just peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative and international resolutions. Is Israel willing and able to achieve such a peace today? Backed by the US and the silence of the international community Israel has swallowed Palestinians land and legitimate Palestinian rights. Why does it need to give Abbas anything?
The PA government run by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh continues to take part in the Israeli-led siege which has been imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since 2007. The Abbas PA does not pay salaries to thousands of its employees in Gaza; it has stopped paying monthly benefits to thousands of poor families in Gaza; and it does not send medicines and medical equipment to hospitals in Gaza.
When PA Health Minister Mai Keila visited the besieged territory last month, the head of the ministry’s central warehouse, Moneer Al-Borsh, told her that her officials in Ramallah sent just seven per cent of Gaza’s medical needs. He pointed out that the shelves of the ministry’s pharmacies in Gaza are almost empty.
Yesterday, Welfare Minister Ahmed Majdalani called for the salaries of PA employees in Gaza who are still being paid by his government to be cut, claiming that they do not go to work. He was lying. Most of them have returned to their jobs — having been ordered by Abbas years ago to stay at home and not work for the elected Hamas government, even though they were still paid their salaries — something that Majdalani and Abbas know very well because the president himself asked them to go back when he claimed that he wanted to end the division in 2018 and sent his prime minister to Gaza.
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The Chief Editor of Al-Ray News Agency in Gaza, Ismail Al-Thawabta, called the pledges made by Abbas a “mirage” unless and until their effects are seen on the ground. This would include lifting the sanctions that Abbas imposed on Gaza and its people; paying the salaries of PA employees in Gaza as well as the stipends paid to Palestinians who have been wounded, prisoners and martyrs’ families; and paying benefits to poor families, he explained.
He added that Abbas “must stop political detention” in the occupied West Bank and “end other violations,” stressing that the PA head “is throwing dust in the eyes of the Palestinians through his emotional speeches.”
Regarding Abbas’s calls for resuming peace talks with the Israeli occupation authorities, earlier this week the PA’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Riyadh Mansour noted that the PA’s mission to the UN has taken diplomatic steps to hold an international conference at the beginning of 2021. The pledge to start the implementation of these changes before the start of October, meanwhile, has simply not materialised.
It is obvious that Abbas has no real intention to serve the Palestinian cause at all. That much was clear when his envoys agreed with Hamas to end the internal division and form a new national unity government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to choose between Hamas and Israel, so Abbas renounced the reconciliation move and chose Israel.
In addition to the above, the Secretary General of Fatah’s Central Committee, Jebril Al-Rajoub, who spearheaded the rapprochement with Hamas, said yesterday that Abbas “will not set a date for elections until all factions agree on national action.” This was Fatah backtracking on Abbas’s pledges, because Al-Rajoub started to set conditions where there is no place for them, as all the Palestinian factions have already agreed on national action.
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If Abbas is serious about his intention to carry out the pledges made during the secretaries-general conference last month, why doesn’t he travel to Gaza and start working with Hamas and the other Palestinian factions who cannot travel to the occupied West Bank because of the siege? Abbas owns a villa in Gaza which has been protected by Hamas security officials since the start of the political split in 2007, so it will cost him virtually nothing at all to go there.
However, it seems that he is ready to do anything and everything except reconciliation. He doesn’t want to give the people of Palestine the opportunity to choose their leaders because he doesn’t want to risk having to give up one or more of his positions. Israel is happy as long as Abbas is leading the major Palestinian institutions as he does not do anything before receiving directions from Tel Aviv. For his part, it looks as if Abbas is happy as long as Israel is happy. That’s why he is still lying to the Palestinians.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.