Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets Israeli delegation in Ramallah, May 17, 2016.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an Iranian diaspora opposition group, met in Paris on Saturday, renewing tensions between the Palestinian leadership and Iran.
Abbas hosted Rajavi at his hotel and updated her on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news agency.
The following day, Tehran learned of the meeting and accused President Abbas of working as a secret agent on behalf of the United States government.
A top adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Shiekh al-Islam said, “That man [Abbas] is known to us and documents from the US Embassy in Tehran revealed that he has been a collaborator with the Central Intelligence Agency for a long time and his actions in the past decades have proved that.”
Later in the evening, Wafa published a press release from the Fatah Media and Culture Commissariat, saying Iran, without mentioning its name, is carrying out a campaign to undermine President Abbas and the Palestinian cause. “A careful reading of adviser to the Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Sheikh al-Islam’s statements… have made clear to us of the horror that many people are carrying out to serve the Zionist project through organized campaigns against the president of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian issue.”
The statement stated further that Iran hopes to entrench division between Palestinians.
“They have vied and are still vying to destroy and ruin the Palestinian people, entrench the division, and encourage internal conflict to gain political points, nothing else. Their goals have nothing to do with Jerusalem or justice,” it said.
Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip, told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas met with Rajavi because he wants to signal that he stands with the so called “moderate Sunni alliance,” which tentatively includes Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
“The Palestinian Authority has made a decision to align itself with the so-called moderate Sunni Arab governments and in the meantime distance itself from Iran and the Shiite camp in the region, because it does not want to lose political and financial support of [the former].” He continued, “That’s why the PA and President Mahmoud Abbas met with the Iranian opposition leader.”
Grant Rumley, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Post that Iran and the PA have maintained public ties in the past, but Abbas’s meeting with the Iranian opposition leader seemed to cross a redline for Tehran.
“In the past, both sides have repeatedly pledged their support publicly for the other, but Abbas’s visit to Paris appears to be a bridge too far for Tehran,” he said.
The PA and Iran last traded barbs in February when Iran announced it would send money to families, whose children carry out attacks against Israelis.
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