Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

All eyes on Abbas

After robust decisions were taken by the Palestinian Central Council, the ball is in Mahmoud Abbas’ court as to whether he will implement them, reports Haitham Ahmed from Ramallah

All eyes  on Abbas
All eyes on Abbas

اقرأ باللغة العربية

Palestinian observers and analysts assert that recent decisions by the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) taken in Ramallah are unlike any in the past because the issue today is different, especially since the PCC met under unusual circumstances after US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. They add that PCC resolutions will be referred to the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) Executive Committee to become decisions on the ground.

Observers note that the Palestinian issue is going through a most critical and difficult phase, and confronting this crucial and decisive moment requires using all tools to foil the conspiracy led by the US and Israel. They emphasise the need to restructure the Palestinian house and bolster its foundation, which is not possible without inter-Palestinian conciliation. This is the best and safest support for political battles facing the Palestinian leadership and all resistance by the Palestinian masses. 

The PCC declared the transitional period stipulated in agreements signed in Oslo, Cairo, Washington and their obligations are no longer applicable. In its final declaration, the PCC directed the PLO’s Executive Committee to suspend recognition of Israel until recognition is given of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, annulling the decision to annex East Jerusalem.

The PCC renewed its decision to suspend all forms of security coordination and disengage from economic dependence stipulated by the Paris Economic Agreement, in order to achieve national economic independence. It ordered the Executive Committee and all Palestinian state institutions to begin implementing these decisions.

Qays Abdel-Karim, deputy secretary general of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said the action strategy in the coming phase focuses on three areas. First, taking the matter to the global community by resorting to tools of international law to shore up Palestine as a state by joining international agencies – especially those that the US has threatened to withdraw from if Palestine is a member.

Second, the immediate referral of all war crimes by occupation forces to the International Criminal Court to quickly begin investigations, especially of settlements. 

Third, continuing to seek more recognition of the Palestinian state as a foundation to rebuild the peace process under collective international supervision and a UN umbrella, to guarantee the creation of an independent sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of refugees.

Jamal Muhaisen, member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said an emergency meeting will be held soon for leaders of Palestinian factions to escalate popular resistance and guarantee it continues, as suggested by the Political Committee and PCC resolutions. Muhaisen explained that stepping up popular resistance requires effective and supportive measures, as well as a comprehensive plan for everyone, not only in marches and protests but also support for the resilience of the people, better solidarity and a boycott of Israeli products.

Anas Abu Arish, a Palestinian researcher, disagrees and believes PCC decisions are non-binding recommendations sent to the Executive Committee which in turn could approve or reject them. Abu Arish cited security coordination as an example, which has become a routine decision by the PCC, but the Executive Committee does not abide by it. The PCC’s decisions were expected, but without implementation by the Executive Committee chaired by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas they are nothing but ink on paper to absorb the anger of the Palestinian masses.

He added these decisions were issued by the PCC of which Abbas is not a member. He is the chairman of the powerful Executive Committee and therefore the ball is in his court. He added that President Abbas will not reject PCC resolutions, but neither will he apply them, and they will be forgotten in time.

Walid Ali, director of Baheth for Palestinian and Strategic Studies, pointed out that the location of the PCC meeting – in the shadow of Israeli occupation – is very telling. If the meeting is the work of the Palestinian Authority to bring the PLO under its control, it would be impossible for the PCC to move forward and fulfil the destiny of the Palestinian people, he said.

On another front, Palestinian factions said Abbas’s statements “did not rise to the challenges bombarding the Palestinian cause and occupied Jerusalem. [He] offers nothing new.” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said Abbas’s position “lacks a desire to close ranks. Instead of focusing on core issues, [Abbas] attacked Hamas and its patriotic figures. This is a clear indicator that he refuses to reconcile with all patriotic Palestinian forces, or reach a united platform.”

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said Abbas’s statements “focused on history, which he indulged in to avoid addressing core issues,” as noted by Rabah Mehanna, member of PFLP’s politburo. “This is a mistake and his statements do not address what is needed at this critical moment in time for the Palestinian cause.”

Talal Abu Zarifa, member of the politburo of the DFLP, said: “Abbas does not want to take any decisions that would shackle his political manoeuvrability in the future. He should have been more articulate on issues pertaining to national rights, tools of resistance, Jerusalem and refugees.”

In a speech, Abbas rejected Trump’s “deal of the century” for the Palestinian issue, stating that Jerusalem “was taken off the table via a tweet by the US president”.

Palestinian officials revealed that the proposal for the city of Abu Dees to replace Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state was a suggestion by Saudi Arabia. Israel’s i24News quoted an alleged “Palestinian official” as saying Saudi Arabia proposed the alternate capital, an issue Abbas mentioned in his address to the PCC on Sunday, without naming the country. The source allegedly added that Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman “made the suggestion to Abbas while he was visiting Riyadh two months ago where he was summoned suddenly”.

Abbas confirmed media reports that Abu Dees, located near Jerusalem, was proposed as an alternate capital. “They are offering Abu Dees as our capital,” he said. “We don’t take orders from anyone and we say no to everyone. It is a matter of our destiny, our cause, our country, our purpose, our people; we say no, and a thousand nos. We will not accept Trump’s plan or interference by Arab countries in our affairs.”

Ahmed Majdalani, member of the PLO’s Executive, had said earlier that US ideas for the deal of the century aim to deflate the Palestinian cause, amid rumours that Abbas will be removed from office. Majdalani said in a television interview that the US proposal was presented to the Palestinians by Saudi Arabia, and the deal aims to dissolve the Palestinian issue and create a regional alliance — including Israel — against Iran.

Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation is using the time to build more settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as changing reality on the ground to annex the West Bank and end the creation of a Palestinian state there. Israel anticipates another Palestinian uprising in the Gaza Strip, which has proven to be an effective weapon against Israel, and thus Tel Aviv is targeting and destroying underground tunnels because they are a critical weapon in any upcoming battle. Israel is building an underground wall along the border, as well as using oft-mentioned new technology to detect underground tunnels. Four such tunnels were uncovered last year.

Ibrahim Al-Madhoun, a political analyst and writer, believes there is a war of minds between Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s military wing) and Palestinian resistance forces, on the one hand, and the Israeli occupation on the other, as occupation forces try to win the intelligence war after their defeat in the military field. 

Al-Madhoun believes all scenarios are possible due to realities in Gaza, even escalating into all-out military confrontation at a time when the occupation is trying to take advantage of the strict siege and fatigue in Gaza.

He added that Israel is trying to divert attention away from central issues, namely occupied Jerusalem, expanding settlements in the West Bank and confiscation of land, and redirect the focus on the Gaza Strip by announcing it uncovered tunnels or by escalating tensions.

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