Abbas blames aides for motion's removal

Abbas blames aides for U

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considering firing a number of his top aides who advised him to withdraw a motion to the UN Human Rights Council regarding the findings of the commission of inquiry led by Justice Richard Goldstone into Operation Cast Lead. Abbas's decision to withdraw the motion has triggered a wave of unprecedented criticism and condemnations among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. A senior PA official in Ramallah claimed that some of Abbas's advisers had misled him into thinking that there wasn't enough support among members of the UN Human Rights Council for the Palestinians' request to endorse the findings of the Goldstone commission. "Some advisers misled the president and lied to him," the official said. "They did not tell him the truth." Abbas was now considering firing the advisers, "because of the huge damage they caused to the Palestinian Authority's credibility," the official said. He added that Abbas was shocked by the strong condemnations issued by many Palestinians and Arabs in response to his decision. He was particularly enraged by the response of the Arab League and Egypt, both of which had opposed his decision to withdraw the motion. The PA official did not name the advisers who had allegedly misled Abbas. Meanwhile, sources close to Prime Minister Salaam Fayad strongly denied that he had been involved in the controversial decision. The sources said Fayad had expressed his opposition to the decision to withdraw the motion before it was taken. Fayad is said to have relayed his position to US diplomats who tried to persuade him to withdraw the resolution. Fayad also reportedly expressed discontent with the apparent shift in Washington's policy toward construction in the settlements. The US administration is reported to have abandoned its earlier demand that Israel freeze all construction work in the settlements so as to pave the way for the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. The latest crisis has forced Abbas to cancel a planned visit to Damascus after the Syrians criticized him for withdrawing the motion. Abbas was scheduled to visit Syria on Tuesday for talks with President Bashar Assad on the latest developments in the region and Egyptian efforts to end the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. The Syrians have joined many Arabs who have launched scathing attacks on Abbas for agreeing to defer the motion. Palestinian political analysts and commentators were unanimous in their assessment that the "scandal" surrounding Abbas's move has seriously undermined his authority. "The credibility of the Palestinian presidency has been severely shattered, both on the popular level and even among Fatah," said analyst Sameeh Shabib. "Unless Palestinian negotiators [with Israel] can come up with real achievements, Abbas's status will suffer a setback. And this is not good, especially since we could be headed toward new elections." Another analyst, Hani al-Masri, said this was the "second blow" to Abbas's credibility after the Americans forced him to participate in a summit with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in New York two weeks ago. Masri added that the fiasco over the PA motion to the UN has weakened Abbas after he had emerged strong from the recent Fatah Sixth Conference in Bethlehem. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar on Monday called for stripping Abbas of his Palestinian citizenship and accused him of "high treason." Zahar's call was made during an emergency meeting of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City. Zahar and many council members called to bring Abbas to trial for betraying the interests of the Palestinians. One of the Hamas legislators, Ismail al-Ashkar, called for adopting a resolution that labels Abbas and his top aides in the West Bank "war criminals." Abbas and his advisers were "not different from the Zionist war criminals," Ashkar said.