Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, May 22, 2015..
(photo credit: AFP/KHALIL MAZRAAWI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Tehran in the coming months in a bid to boost ties with Iran, a PLO official told the Ma’an news agency this week.
As he court’s Israel’s primary enemy, the 80-year-old Abbas, who assumed office on May 8, 2005, does not seem to be planning to retire anytime soon.
Abbas has threatened to resign on numerous occasions.
On the eve of the last election to be held by the PA – back in January 2006 – Abbas warned he would step down if he was unable to pursue his policy of peace negotiations with Israel. But when Hamas – a terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel – won the parliamentary election, Abbas stayed in office.
In October 2010, Abbas warned US envoy George Mitchell that should Israel continue to build in the West Bank, he would resign. Israel continued to build and Abbas reneged on his promise.
In September 2012, he was at it again, threatening through a spokesman to quit his position “within 10 days.”
Once again he remained in power.
Judging from this incomplete compilation of empty threats that span Abbas’s career, his latest resignation threat – reported late last month by Channel 1’s Oded Granot – should not be taken terribly seriously.
This is particularly true considering that Abbas has invested much in securing his position in Fatah by eliminating potential competition.
Nevertheless, Abbas, who is said to be in poor health, might soon be unable to continue to lead the Palestinian people – at least those living in the West Bank who remain under the governance of the PA .
Doomsayers claim – and have claimed in the past when Abbas has issued resignation threats – that without him the PA would cease to function. Security coordination between the PA and Israel would stop, and basic functions such as garbage collection, law enforcement, education, and local government services would gradually break down, forcing Israel to resume its pre-Oslo Accords involvement in the day-to-day lives of Palestinians.
But the fact is that with or without Abbas, the Palestinian leadership in the PA has a vested interest in maintaining its control. Donor countries funnel millions of dollars into the PA that provide salaries for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Anyone who controls the PA controls a large amount of money and the resulting political clout. Fatah will not quickly relinquish all this, with or without Abbas.
But while Abbas’s disappearance from the political stage will not necessary lead to a collapse of the PA , nor will it lead to a bright new era for Israeli-Palestinian relations.
No Palestinian leader, Abbas included, has a mandate to reach an everlasting peace agreement with Israel. That is because no leader in Ramallah or the Gaza Strip is authorized to end the conflict with Israel.
Yasser Arafat was not able to accept the generous offer made by then-prime minister Ehud Barak at the 2000 Camp David summit. Similarly, Abbas has failed on a number of occasions to make any form of concession to Israel.
And Abbas can only blame himself for the situation he faces today. He has done next to nothing during his long term as president to prepare his people for peace.
If anything he has been counterproductive. Official PA media outlets regularly refer to parts of Israel inside the Green Line as “occupied territories.” Palestinian officials – and many Arab MKs – reject the Jewish ties to sites resonating with Jewish history such as the Temple Mount, Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb.
The PLO ’s Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian whose co-religionists are persecuted throughout the Middle East, accused US President Barack Obama of adopting the “discourse of Zionist ideology” simply because Obama acknowledged the Jewish people’s deep roots in the Land of Israel.
Palestinian violence directed at Israelis is practically a daily phenomenon in the form of stone-throwing, firebombs and other deadly attacks – David Bar-Kappara, Danny Gonen and Malachi Rosenfeld were murdered by Palestinians in the last two months.
Yet precious little is heard from Palestinian leaders denouncing this violence. The incitement continues and streets and squares are named after terrorists.
There is little reason to expect this to change when Abbas finally fulfills his often repeated threat to resign. This sad reality may be the real obstacle to any chance of a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.