Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to reshuffle the
Palestinian cabinet is seen by many Palestinians as a sign of the immense
pressure he has been facing following the popular uprisings in Tunisia and
Abbas is worried that the tsunami that swept the Tunisian and
Egyptian presidents from office would sooner or later hit Ramallah.
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the eyes of many Palestinians, Abbas is not much different from Hosni Mubarak
and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Like the two ousted dictators, Abbas has also been
accused of being a “puppet” in the hands of the Americans.
The events in
Tunisia and Egypt have taught Abbas that US backing alone is not a guarantor for
the survival of his regime in the West Bank. He knows that without the
support of a majority of Palestinians, he could end up facing a popular
Arab leaders who failed to draw the conclusion from the downfall
of the Ben Ali regime have finally woken up. The intifada that ended
Mubarak’s authoritarian rule has shown them that the Arab masses are serious in
their demand for reform and democracy.
Abbas is perhaps one of the few,
if not only, Arab leaders who stand to lose a lot from Mubarak’s departure from
the scene. For many years, the Palestinian president considered Mubarak to be a
strong political ally in the Arab and international arenas.
supported Abbas against Hamas, Israel, the US and hostile Arab and Islamic
regimes such as Syria and Iran.
The downfall of Mubarak’s regime is a
“catastrophe” for Abbas and an award for Hamas, admitted a senior Fatah
Almost immediately after it was announced that Mubarak had
stepped down, Abbas convened PLO leaders in Ramallah and declared his intention
to hold long overdue presidential and parliamentary elections by September.
Earlier, Abbas had also announced plans to hold municipal elections in July. On
Monday, he went a step further by asking Fayyad to form a new
All these measures are seen as an attempt on the part of Abbas
to prevent the anti-government wave from reaching the Mukata presidential
compound in Ramallah. It’s hard, however, to see how Abbas would be able to hold
the elections, given that Hamas and other Palestinian groups have announced that
they would not only boycott the vote, but would also prevent it from taking
place in the Gaza Strip. It’s also hard to see how replacing a number of cabinet
ministers would help Abbas and Fayyad, especially in light of the grave damage
that has been caused to the PA leadership’s credibility with the recent
publication of the leaked “Palestine Papers” by Al-Jazeera.
called for elections and reshuffled his cabinet before the uprisings in Tunisia
and Egypt, he would have scored more points. But the fact that he’s doing all
these things only now reinforces the impression that Abbas, like most Arab
leaders these days, is freaking out.