ANALYSIS: At U.N., another PR ‘victory’ for Abbas

One official called it a “major public relations victory for President Abbas and Palestine.”

January 15, 2019 22:15
3 minute read.
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas greets the audience during a ceremony in Ramallah

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas greets the audience during a ceremony in Ramallah on December 31, marking the 54th anniversary of Fatah’s founding. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)


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Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah often boast that their diplomatic warfare against Israel has proven to be more effective than Hamas’s rockets and suicide bombings. On Tuesday, these officials were celebrating what they considered another “huge achievement” for Palestinian diplomacy: assuming the presidency of the Group 77 (G77) and China, a bloc that represents 134 nations.

PA officials said that Tuesday’s ceremony at the United Nations, during which Mahmoud Abbas was handed the presidency of the G77 and China, was a major victory both for him and the state of Palestine. The move, they explained, is a vote of confidence in Abbas’s leadership and a severe blow to Israel and the US administration, which opposed the General Assembly’s vote to allow the Palestinians to chair the group of developing countries.

One official called it a “major public relations victory for President Abbas and Palestine.”

Tuesday’s move will undoubtedly enhance Abbas’s standing, especially in the international arena. The 83-year-old Abbas was in his element as he attended the ceremony at the UN. He loves delivering speeches at international forums, especially at the UN.

His radio and television stations in Ramallah broadcasted news and interviews related to the event all day. “Thanks to the efforts of our president, we’re closer to achieving all our rights, and soon we will see a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” declared a radio presenter shortly before the UN ceremony.

The main messages of the broadcasts: Abbas is a hero; he has done it again; he has scored another significant and historic victory for the Palestinians and the effort to win international recognition of Palestinian statehood and rights; this is a slap in the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and all of Abbas’s Palestinian opponents, first and foremost Hamas.

For Abbas, the timing of the ceremony at the UN could not have been better. It came as he continues to face sharp criticism from Israel, the US administration and Hamas. Abbas’s media and senior officials have been depicting him as the target of an Israeli-US “conspiracy” designed to remove him from power because of his rejection of Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, which is also known as the “deal of the century.” They also accused Hamas and Qatar of being in collusion with the purported conspiracy.

Abbas loyalists interviewed by the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station on Tuesday, heaped praise on their president for his diplomatic offensive against Israel in the international arena. Thanks to this, one of them boasted, the Palestinian state is now only a stone’s throw away. “Palestine is now the leader of 134 nations, and this is a historic and unprecedented achievement for the Palestinian struggle,” remarked another overexcited Abbas loyalist.

Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction joined the celebration by publishing a poster of the PA president with a caption reading: “His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas is President of the Group 77 and China.” Another Fatah poster read: “Long live His Excellency the President, Long live Palestine, the chair of the Group 77 and China.”

But Abbas will soon return to Ramallah to realize that the latest “victory” he scored in the international arena has not changed the reality on the ground. As he was speaking at the UN, Palestinians in the West Bank staged a partial strike and demonstrated against a new controversial social security law passed by Abbas’s government.

The widespread protests, which have been taking place for several weeks, are seen by some Palestinians as a revolt against Abbas and his government. And as he was speaking at the UN, Hamas and other Palestinian factions were continuing their attacks on Abbas, pointing out that he was no longer a legitimate and rightful president since his term in office expired 10 years ago. Abbas may have won the support of many in the international community, but he still needs to make a big effort to regain the confidence of many Palestinians.

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