Yasser Abed Rabbo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian NGO in Ramallah headed by PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said Wednesday that it had learned from the media about a decision to close down the group.
Palestinian sources said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had issued an order to close the Palestinian Peace Coalition (PPC) and confiscate its assets.
Abbas recently dismissed Abed Rabbo from his job as secretary-general of the PLO, a position that chief negotiator Saeb Erekat now holds.
PA officials in Ramallah would neither confirm nor deny the reports about the decision to shut down the NGO.
Established in 2000, the Swiss-funded PPC consists of senior Palestinian officials, businessmen, political activists and intellectuals, as well as ministers and members of the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The PPC’s declared goal advocates negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in order to create two states for two peoples. The group is part of the Geneva Initiative, which “offers a real and mutually agreed upon possibility for ending the conflict between the two sides and obtaining a mutually acceptable peace that guarantees the vital national interests of both sides.”
Israeli leaders behind the Geneva Initiative include former justice minister Yossi Beilin and former MKs Colette Avital, Uzi Baram, Naomi Hazan, Avraham Burg, Eitan Cabel, Dalia Rabin and Ophir Pines-Paz.
PPC director Nidal Fukaha said his organization was unaware of any “presidential degree” ordering its closure.
“We haven’t received any official notification in this regard,” he explained. “We only heard about it in the media.”
Fukaha said the PPC was a licensed NGO that abided by the directives of the Palestinian leadership. More than 90 percent of the group’s activities are devoted to ending the Hamas-Fatah dispute and exposing Israeli settlement activities to the European Union, he added.
Abed Rabbo strongly condemned the reports. He said that if true, the closure order would be an “unprecedented move.”
He pointed out that PCC was an independent organization under the auspices of the European Union and the Swiss government and had no links to the PA or the PLO.
The Swiss government, meanwhile, expressed anger over Abbas’s reported intention to close down the organization, according to a PPC source. The source said the Swiss Foreign Ministry had summoned the PA ambassador to Switzerland and warned him that the move would have a negative impact on relations between the two sides.
Palestinians see the move against Abed Rabbo’s NGO in the context of Abbas’s crackdown on political opponents and critics. Recently Abbas made a similar decision targeting a Ramallah-based NGO headed by former PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad.
Some Palestinians in Ramallah said that Abbas’s reported move against the PPC could be linked to a recent article that Beilin published, in which he strongly criticized the PA leader. Titled, “Something is rotten in the kingdom of Ramallah,” Beilin’s article denounced Abbas for targeting Abed Rabbo and Fayyad.
“Abbas, who took up the leadership over a decade ago after Yasser Arafat’s demise, and told everyone who would listen that his mission is to pick up the pieces and pass the torch to the younger generation, is carrying on like an authoritarian leader not unlike many of his Arab League counterparts,” Beilin charged.