Analysis: Abbas, as irrelevant as ever

Palestinian Authority president fails to do anything other than deliver televised speeches to protest IDF Gaza operation.

November 21, 2012 03:18
3 minute read.
Mahmoud Abbas with Mohamed Morsi in Cairo

Mahmoud Abbas with Mohamed Morsi in Cairo 370 (R). (photo credit: Reuters / handout)


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Last week Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cut short a visit to Switzerland and returned to Ramallah to follow the new round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

But ever since his arrival in Ramallah, he has not been able to do anything other than deliver televised speeches and dispatch a top Fatah official to the Gaza Strip.

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Abbas’s call for holding an emergency Arab summit to discuss the Israeli “aggression” on the Gaza Strip seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

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His call to the international community to halt the IDF offensive also seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

The leaders of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, who met in Cairo earlier this week to discuss ways of ending the violence, did not even bother to invite him to the talks.

Instead, they invited leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the Egyptian capital as part of their effort to achieve a cease-fire.

From his prison cell in Israel, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti called on Abbas on Monday to head immediately to the Gaza Strip to show solidarity with its residents.

But Abbas, whom Hamas kicked out of Gaza in 2007, chose to ignore Barghouti’s call. And he has good reasons to stay away from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders have repeatedly stated over the past few years that they will not permit Abbas to return to Gaza unless he abandons the peace process with Israel and stops arresting supporters of the Islamist movement in the West Bank.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, said recently that the biggest threat to Abbas, if and when he decided to visit the Gaza Strip, would not come from Hamas, but from disgruntled Fatah activists affiliated with the faction’s former security commander Muhammad Dahlan.

Visits to the Gaza Strip by the Egyptian prime minister, Tunisian foreign minister and Arab League secretary-general are another sign of how Abbas has become irrelevant.

The Arab delegations visiting the Gaza Strip see no reason they should talk to Abbas or visit him in his Ramallah office. As far as they are concerned, Abbas has no role to play in the current crisis, especially considering that he has no control over the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas is now desperately trying to show the world that he is still relevant and can play a role in ending the bloodshed. Over the past few days, he has sought to create the impression that he is deeply involved in mediation efforts to achieve a cease-fire.

The confrontation between Israel and Hamas has also seen him adopt a tougher line against the former and a softer approach toward the latter.

In his speeches, the PA president has used harsh words to condemn the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, holding Israel fully responsible for the outbreak of violence.

He has also instructed his security forces to allow Hamas supporters and other Palestinians to stage large demonstrations in the West Bank in support of the Islamic movement. Until last week, Hamas flags had not been seen in the streets of Ramallah.

At the same time, he has refrained from criticizing Hamas – as he has done in the past – for firing rockets and missiles at Israel. He has also used the IDF offensive to renew his call for ending the dispute between his Fatah faction and Hamas.

This call has also fallen on deaf ears.

Abbas will undoubtedly emerge as the biggest loser from the current conflict.

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