palestinian protestors 248 88 AP.
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Facing an unprecedented wave of condemnations and accusations of treason, beleaguered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the circumstances that led the Palestinians to abandon their demand that the UN Human Rights Council endorse a resolution condemning Israel's failure to cooperate with Justice Richard Goldstone's Cast Lead fact-finding mission.
The attacks on Abbas are the fiercest since he was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat as PA president in January 2005.
The violence that has erupted in Jerusalem's Old City in the past few days can be seen in the context of the PA leadership's attempts to divert attention from what a Palestinian minister described as "one of the worst scandals since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority."
PA representatives have been urging Palestinians to save the Aksa Mosque from being "destroyed" or "captured" by Jewish "fanatics."
A PA minister scoffed at Abbas's decision to establish a commission of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the PA's move at the UN.
"What's the president [Abbas] trying to tell us - that he didn't take the decision to kill the resolution that would have seen the UN endorse the findings of the fact-finding commission into the Gaza war?" the minister wondered sarcastically.
"Well, if he didn't take the decision, then we want to know who's running the Palestinian Authority? If he was responsible for the [deferral] decision, then this is a very serious matter. If he knew, it's bad; if he didn't know, it's even worse."
Abbas's commission of inquiry will be headed by Hana Amireh, a member of the PLO Executive Committee. The other two members of the commission will be Azmi Shuaibi, head of the non-governmental Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), and Rami Hamdallah, secretary-general of the Palestinian Central Elections Committee.
The commission has been asked to present its findings to Abbas and the PLO Executive Committee within two weeks, said Yasser Abed Rabo, a senior PLO official who also serves as an adviser to the PA president.
The Executive Committee, which is dominated by veteran Abbas loyalists, is one of the Palestinians' key decision-making bodies.
Abed Rabbo said that Abbas decided to launch an inquiry into the PA's action at the UN after consulting with Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Council, another body that has a large say in decision-making.
Muhammad Dahlan, a former PA security commander who was recently elected to the Fatah Central Council, dismissed any attempt to lay the blame solely on the PA envoy to the UN, Ibrahim Khraishi.
"This is not about Khraishi alone," Dahlan said. "This is about the Palestinian Authority's policies."
Dahlan said that Fatah was not consulted about the decision to abandon the request for a vote in the UN Human Rights Council that would have paved the way for bringing the Goldstone Report to the Security Council for further discussion.
Dahlan described the Goldstone Report as a "big national case that is relatively fair toward the Palestinians."
A PA official refused to comment on reports that Abbas had personally instructed his envoy to withdraw the request.
The official claimed that the decision followed heavy pressure from the Americans and came after the PA discovered that many countries would not support the request.
According to the PA official, China, Russia and France were among many countries that had urged the PA move to defer the vote for six months.
The official accused Israel and the US of "seriously embarrassing" the PA leadership by making public "secret understandings" regarding the deferral of the vote.
He said that the understandings were supposed to remain secret.
"The Israelis and Americans leaked the understandings to the media," the PA official complained. "They have caused tremendous damage to the Palestinian Authority."
Another official claimed that the decision was taken by Fayad, who did not consult with Abbas. However, sources close to Fayad denied the claim and accused Abbas's advisers of exploiting the scandal to defame the PA prime minister and get rid of him.