x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Calls for Abbas to resign over Goldstone report

From the streets of Ramallah to Gaza City, and even from the Balad party representing Arabs and Palestinians in Israel, come increasingly loud calls for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to submit his resignation. A senior PLO official and outgoing Palestinian ambassador to Egypt Nabil Amr announced his own resignation from the Palestinian Authority, said: "How, in the shadow of such an affair, can Abu Mazen (Abbas) chose to travel around the world and not be with the people and explain to them what happened?"

From the streets of Ramallah to Gaza City, and even from the Balad party representing Arabs and Palestinians in Israel, come increasingly loud calls for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to submit his resignation. A senior PLO official and outgoing Palestinian ambassador to Egypt Nabil Amr announced his own resignation from all his positions in the Palestinian Authority and said: "How, in the shadow of such an affair, can Abu Mazen (Abbas) chose to travel around the world and not be with the people and explain to them what happened?" Haaretz reported: "For the first time in history, an Israeli Arab political party challenged the Palestinian leadership on Tuesday, calling for the immediate dismissal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The Balad party, headed by Jamal Zahalka, was planning to officially call for Abbas' resignation at a conference convened especially for that purpose, scheduled for Saturday. "Abbas has faced harsh criticism over recent days following his decision not to ask the United Nations Human Right Council to vote on the findings of the Goldstone report, which concludes that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel's offensive in Gaza last winter. "The UNHRC has delayed its vote on the report, as per Abbas' request. "Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Abbas made the decision to delay the vote immediately after meeting with the US Consul General last Thursday, without the knowledge of the PLO leadership or the government of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and without any consultation." Ynet said: "Senior PLO official and outgoing Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt Nabil Amr, harshly criticised President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday over his stance on the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. "Amr, who until recently served as a close advisor to the president, said Abbas is responsible for the change in the Palestinian Authority's position with regards to the report, which led to the deferral of a vote in the UN's Human Rights Council on whether action should be taken. "Amr's remarks come as particularly harsh statements from a senior Fatah official. "He slammed Abbas' decision to form an internal inquiry commission to probe the matter, and said this was an insincere attempt by Abbas to shirk responsibility. " 'How, in the shadow of such an affair, can Abu Mazen (Abbas) chose to travel around the world and not be with the people and explain to them what happened?' he said." Al Jazeera reported: "Hundreds of people in the West Bank city of Ramallah have protested against the Palestinian Authority's support to delay the endorsement of a UN report on possible war crimes committed during Israel's offensive on Gaza. "Protesters gathered on Monday waving placards saying the delay 'insults the blood of the martyrs and wounds our people'. " '[The decision] was a knife in the backs and in the hearts of all the martyrs,' said Jamal al-Jumaa, a protester. "Similar protests were also held in Jerusalem, where pro-Palestinian activists demanded an apology from Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. " 'If the government had anything to do with the decision we want it to resign,' Muhammad Jadallah, the head of the Coalition for Jerusalem, said." In Beirut's Daily Star, Rami G Khouri wrote: "Here was a rare case of a credible international judge making strong accusations against both Israel and Hamas, and suggesting that their conduct be considered by the UN Security Council. It was an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on Israel through the institutions of the United Nations. However, Abbas caved in to US pressure, making it clear that he was more concerned about his relations with Washington than relations with, well, his own people. The cold-hearted capacity of the president to throw away an opportunity to subject Israeli war crimes accusations to serious international scrutiny revealed the almost total and absolute gap between himself and his Palestinian people. "Abbas took this decision after another equally hollow performance when he met briefly with the US President, Barack Obama, and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in New York. He offered the illusion of action toward a negotiated peace, where in fact there is none. "Abbas swallowed his words about refusing to discuss peace-making with Israel until it had frozen its settlement-building programme. He was a tragic shell of a man, hollow, politically impotent, backed and respected by nobody. "The total emptiness in the Palestinian presidential chair is a problem that has a solution; in one move Abbas can help rebuild the credibility of the Palestinian presidency while simultaneously strengthening overall Palestinian national unity and political cohesion. "He should simply call early elections for the Palestine Authority presidency, not stand as a candidate, and instead devote time to using his other position as head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's Executive Committee to achieve a critical need absent from Palestinian life for decades: namely, building a national consensus by giving voice to all groups of Palestinians and especially to refugees living in camps throughout the Middle East." Amira Hass, commenting on Mr Abbas' capitulation to American pressure after a visit from the American consul-general last Thursday led the Palestinian president to phone Geneva, said: "A great deal of political folly and short-sightedness was bared by that phone call, on the eve of Hamas's celebration of its victory in securing the release of 20 female prisoners. Precisely on that day, Abbas put Gaza in the headlines within the context of the PLO's defeatism and of spitting in the face of the victims of the attack - that is how they felt in Gaza and elsewhere. "Abbas confirmed in fact that Hamas is the real national leadership, and gave ammunition to those who claim that its path - the path of armed struggle - yields results that negotiations do not. "This was not an isolated gaffe, but a pattern that has endured since the PLO leadership concocted, together with naive Norwegians and shrewd Israeli lawyers, the Oslo Accords. Disregard for, and lack of interest in the knowledge and experience accumulated in the inhabitants of the occupied territories' prolonged popular struggle led to the first errors: the absence of an explicit statement that the aim was the establishment of a state within defined borders, not insisting on a construction freeze in the settlements, forgetting about the prisoners, endorsing the Area C arrangement, etc. "The chronic submissiveness is always explained by a desire to 'make progress'. But for the PLO and Fatah, progress is the very continued existence of the Palestinian Authority, which is now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration." Agence France-Presse reported: "Abbas was on Tuesday 'seriously studying' the possibility of asking that a UN Gaza war report be passed on to the Security Council, a senior official said. " 'President Abbas is seriously studying the possibility of asking the Arab and Islamic bloc to officially take the Goldstone report to international bodies, including the UN General Assembly and the Security Council,' chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a phone call from Amman." A report in the Ma'an news agency said: "The countries that pressured Palestinian leadership to drop the chance for a decision on the Goldstone report on war crimes in Gaza at the Human Rights Council may be named by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. "The member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation made a veiled threat to name what he called 'the countries that said they would support the launch of negotiations without any preconditions, without stopping settlement,' during an exclusive interview Tuesday."

pwoodward@thenational.ae