PA President Abbas continues to sideline opponents

“Our relations with everyone must be good, but no one will dictate to us any position or idea."

December 14, 2016 01:43
2 minute read.
Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In late August, under immense pressure from Arab states, it appeared that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his top rival, Muhammad Dahlan, would reconcile.

Abbas had dispatched a group of Fatah Central Committee members to Cairo to discuss the possibility with Egyptian officials and had permitted the reinstatement of Sufian Abu Zaida and Nasser Guma, Dahlan allies, in Fatah.

However, days later, the 81-year-old Palestinian leader quashed all hopes for reconciliation with Dahlan in a speech on September 3.

“Our relations with everyone must be good, but no one will dictate to us any position or idea,” Abbas said spiritedly, rejecting Arab attempts to bring about an internal Fatah reconciliation.

In the weeks following his speech, Abbas moved resolutely to undo the influence of Dahlan and his supporters in Fatah and Palestinian politics writ large.

First, Abbas kicked Jihad Tommalieh, a Dahlan-allied parliamentarian, out of Fatah in October for organizing a meeting of opposition figures in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah.

Tommalieh and a group of other Dahlan-allied parliamentarians had gathered to call for unity within Fatah, code word for allowing Dahlan back into the West Bank’s ruling party.

Second, in early November, the PA Constitutional Court, which Abbas controversially decreed in April, granted the PA president the authority to strip Palestinian parliamentarians of their immunity.

“PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not overstepping his authority in issuing legal decisions to revoke the immunity of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council while it is not in session,” the court ruling read.

Most Palestinians opposed the court’s decision, according to a recent poll.

Third, Abbas convened the 7th Fatah General Congress, a meeting of the top Fatah leadership, without inviting Dahlan and his supporters, effectively blocking them from the running for leadership positions in Fatah’s top leadership bodies.

The Congress, which concluded just over a week ago, also reelected Abbas as chairman of Fatah for additional five years, cementing his grip on the reigns of the Fatah leadership.

Fourth and most recently, Abbas lifted the immunity of Dahlan and four opposition parliamentarians ahead of an investigation into allegations of money laundering and illegal weapons trade against them.

Abbas’s moves in the past couple of months have proven that, despite immense Arab pressure to set the internal Fatah house in order, he can and will sideline his rivals, undermining basic democratic principles such as freedom of speech.

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