By: Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
The speech delivered by the Palestinian President Mahmud ‘Abbas to the convening Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on 19/3/2018, carried three implicit messages. The first is the announcement of the failure of the Palestinian reconciliation, according to the model signed in 2011 and the following annexes. The second is the desire of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership (Leadership of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization—PLO) to dominate the Palestinian National Project and its leadership without any real partnership. While the third is the PA’s desire to continue with its obligations towards Israel, the peace process, and Oslo, including subjugating Gaza Strip (GS) to the entitlements of such a track, and despite all what the PA leadership said about its frustration due to the US and Israeli positions.
Is an incident, whose perpetrators were unknown (at the time of his speech), worth the destruction of the Palestinian political system/ co-existence?
‘Abbas’s speech was shocking to the Palestinian milieu. The level of insults and accusations that ‘Abbas hurled at Hamas, were surprising and inappropriate to a political leader. A leader like him could have left the task of media attack and insults to a cadre or a third-class staff. Remarkably, the Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA), which published Abbas’s speech, deleted words or phrases, may be feeling embarrassed (on behalf of the president). It deleted Abbas’s words “despicably and with vileness,” when he said that Hamas stood behind that incident. Another phrase about Hamas was deleted, “Shoes and heels will be thrown at their heads, and the heads of their highest [ranked] and the lowest.” The agency also omitted the “son of a dog” phrase, when ‘Abbas cursed the US ambassador to Israel.
This article tries to discuss three issues mentioned in ‘Abbas’s speech:
First: The Assassination Attempt: There are big question marks that need to be answered by ‘Abbas:
First, why the strange and decisive insistence that Hamas is behind the explosion before the investigations are completed? In other words, and based on inconclusive evidence, ‘Abbas could doom the reconciliation project and rebuilding the national project to failure.
Second, why did the PA government in Ramallah refuse to cooperate with GS Security Forces? Another unexploded ordnance (37 meters away from the first one) was found connected to a telephone chip, hence finding some evidence. However, the government ordered the two phone companies “Jawwal” and “Wataniya Mobile” to conceal the names of phone users at the time of the blast, which kept the criminal free.
Third, the Israeli Army Radio and Channel 2 TV reported that Israel informed Abbas’s government that its cameras at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing (whose Palestinian side is controlled by the PA Security Forces) revealed the crossing of three people with a bag. They, also, crossed the street where the explosion happened, and stayed there for twenty minutes. Israel provided the PA Security Forces with these information in order to know their identity, but it did not receive any clarifications.
Fourth, the GS Security Forces are highly efficient, no less than those in WB. According to opinion polls conducted by well known centers in WB, GS citizens, in the recent years, feel as much secure as their counterparts in WB. So why would these forces not operate normally? And if there are doubts about the loyalty of the GS Security Forces to Hamas or to the resistance program? Why do the resistance forces (from the Palestinian national point of view) not have the right to doubt the loyalty of the leaders or officers of the WB Security Forces, who coordinate with Israel and were trained by the Americans, whose larger portion of its budget is provided by the US, and which has suppressed the Intifadah and chased resistance activists?
Fifth, a fundamental question is usually asked in such cases, security and politics wise, who is the beneficiary of the bombing?! There is consensus that ‘Abbas’s government is the main beneficiary, since it wishes to hasten its direct control over GS security portfolio (before completing its dues of the reconciliation arrangements). It would prove that security conditions in GS are disrupted. As for the Hamas, it is the most affected, because it took major steps last year towards reconciliation and lifting the siege. Notably, all Hamas leaders unanimously condemned the explosion and demanded the disclosure of perpetrators, to the extent that one of the Hamas officials has demanded the hanging of the criminal, even if it was al-Sinwar himself, the leader of Hamas in GS (Al-Hayat newspaper, 22/3/2018).
Sixth, the poor direction of a tenth rated film titled “The Explosion.” A despicable game usually played by those who have an interest in mixing the cards and spoiling the situation. Those who know Hamas, despite their political opinion, know quite well its keenness to keep its good reputation and to maintain the security of those who enter its areas. Let’s suppose that it wants to assassinate a politician (and this is not in its records or usual behavior), it will certainly not resort to this bad and exposed way.
Second: Empowerment Scarecrow
President ‘Abbas said that six months after the Cairo Agreement (12/10/2017) “the result for empowering the government was zero,” adding, “It’s all hypocrisy. They don’t want reconciliation.”
First Note: Fatah leaders themselves talked about the positive cooperation in handing over ministries and institutions to the government (Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh 27/11/2017; and ‘Azzam al-Ahmad 8/12/2017).
Second Note: The original Cairo Agreement (4/5/2011) did not mention handing over to the government the Security Forces or the resistance weapons. Its general frame talks about an agreed course of Security Forces reform in GS and WB (and not just GS). The last Cairo Agreement (12/10/2017) states that a joint security meeting would be held between the Security Forces leaders and their counterparts in GS, to discuss rebuilding the Security Forces.
Third Note: The commitments in the reconciliation file, including the empowerment of the government, have parallel paths and mutual benefits. Although the Fatah or PA leadership is pushing the other party to implement specific commitments, it has not complied with its own. Even after Hamas dissolved the Administrative Committee on 17/9/2017, ‘Abbas insisted on the continuation of GS sanctions, although he promised otherwise. Sanctions continued after the signing of the Cairo Agreement as well. The case of more than 22 thousand employees, appointed by the GS Caretaker Government, has remained without a solution despite promises of solving it at the beginning of February 2018.
Fourth Note: Why does ‘Abbas see the result for empowering the government in all civil administrative parts “zero”? Why does he insist that if his government does not control security and resistance in the Gaza Strip, the result would be “zero”?
‘Abbas and his government know that the basis of Palestinian schism is the peace process vs resistance. They know that the reconciliation program has postponed the priorities of the national action and the political program pending the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the Palestinian National Council and the PLO enrollment of all Palestinian factions; which till now did not happen.
Fifth Note: ‘Abbas himself admitted in his speech at the UN Security Council, “We have become an Authority without authority and the occupation has come at a great cost. We are even working for the occupation as its employees.” (United Nations Security Council, S/PV/8183, 20/2/2018). Before that,‘ Abbas admitted in an interview with Cairo Today program (Hosted by ‘Imad al-Din Adib) that he “lives under Israeli boots.”
In February 2018, PLO Executive Committee Secretary and PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat stated to Israeli Channel 2 TV that the real president of the Palestinian people is the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and the Palestinian prime minister is the Coordinator of Government Activities Yoav Mordechai!!
At the same time, ‘Abbas insisted in his speech that either his government takes full charge of everything (over and under ground), or the Hamas “the coup authority” remains fully responsible.
‘Abbas, who doesn’t believe in armed resistance, and who openly states that “Armed Palestinian Intifadah has destroyed us,” wants resistance forces (whose popularity among Palestinian people is not less than Fatah’s and the PA leadership’s) to hand him their security and weapons, even before taking any steps regarding the reform of constitutional, legislative and executive institutions?!
The question that ‘Abbas, his colleagues and his government have to answer is: Do you expect the resistance forces to hand over their weapons and their administration to those who admitted that they are working for the Israeli occupation?! Will the resistance forces accept that the Israeli occupation—through an authority that is subordinate to it—achieve what it has failed to do during the past 11 years of siege and three devastating wars?! What the resistance is saying is that ‘Abbas should not expect from GS, whose soil is mixed with blood, sweat and tears, to welcome a Palestinian “Trojan horse” that would achieve what Israel has failed to do.
Sixth Note: Hamas and the resistance forces suggested building a national army, under a unified leadership of the Palestinian people, so as to accommodate the resistance within it, so why did ‘Abbas ignore the suggestion?
Seventh Note: Since we are talking about empowerment, why don’t we discuss this openly? let’s find the truth about Palestinian “zeros,” and who bears the responsibility for them.
• There is zero empowerment for rebuilding and reforming the PLO,
• There is zero empowerment for the national partnership in PA institutions in WB,
• There is zero empowerment for activating the Palestinian organizational work abroad, (in which half of the Palestinian people are living there, i.e., 6.5 million)
• There is zero empowerment for “The Unified Leadership Framework” of the Palestinian people,
All of these zeros are mainly the responsibility of the Palestinian leadership, at the head of which is ‘Abbas. These are more fundamental than internal arrangements (within a wider system) in GS.
Eighth Note: Why does ‘Abbas not recall the story of “empowerment” experience of the Hamas-led 10th and 11th governments in 2006–2007. These few lines are not enough for scores of evidence and proof, how ‘Abbas and his supporters obstructed and foiled Hamas government performance, when he cancelled some of its jurisdictions before it began its work. How the PA Security Forces refused to submit to the government and how there was an “organized chaos” in GS. How the Interior Minister in the Consensus Government Hani al-Qawasmi had to resign, because he did not have the right to call any policeman or officer to meet him, except through the Fatah official in the public security Rashid Abu Shbak, and that ‘Abbas himself took out from the Minister of Interior his financial and administrative powers.
In short, if we want to proceed properly with empowerment, it should be based on reforming the Palestinian political system. No one should dominate the other, and interests must be served according to the agreed parallel paths.
Third: The Coup Scarecrow
President ‘Abbas believes that not recognizing what happened in GS in the summer of 2007 as a “coup” is an “inferiority.” He confirmed that what happened is a real coup orchestrated by the US and Israel, and that the “Arab Spring…is in fact an ‘American Spring,’ which began in Gaza…” !!
One cannot fathom how rivalry could make President ‘Abbas go this far. Aside from describing such a behavior, what he said has no scientific, objective or informational bases. Would he, himself, his intelligence apparatus, and all researchers, scientists and academics who support him, provide us with evidence for what he said?!
Secondly, If ‘Abbas believes in respecting the Basic Law of the PA he heads, let him agree on forming a specialized professional committee to study the matter. Let this committee tell us if what the Consensus Government, headed by Isma‘il Haniyyah, did was a coup against the Palestinian political system or not?!; when the Security Forces loyal to ‘Abbas and their Fatah supporters tried to topple the government and thwart its work, and the Consensus Government asked al-Qassam Brigades to impose security in GS.
Thirdly, why would Hamas topple itself?! It has an overwhelming PLC majority that enables it to form any government or dissolve it!!
Fourthly, the one who took the decision to impose security in GS is the Prime Minister of a legitimate government and he, himself, was the Interior Minister, so against whom did he topple?!
Fifthly, President ‘Abbas had formed an Emergency Government and turned it into a permanent one, without being granted a PLC vote of confidence, and without accountability, control or follow-up… He has been running his government this way for years?! Is this legitimacy?! Or is this form a sort of a coup against the Palestinian constitutional work?! Even when he agreed with Hamas to form the Hamdallah government, he then “overturned” his agreement and made amendments to it, imposing them without any consultation or agreement.
Sixthly, If Abbas is keen on legitimacy, why has he been suspending the PLC sessions for the past 11 years?! Even though it is the main pillar parallel to his executive work?! Is this a coup against constitutional institutional work?!
Seventhly, President ‘Abbas himself has turned the PA into a “one man” system by having all the executive and legislative powers in his hands. Moreover, ‘Abbas heads the PLO and controls it, the state of Palestine, the interim leadership framework (which he disabled), and Fatah (having all the keys to control it within).
In short, the one who has the power “keys” must open the “doors” to a healthy Palestinian political environment, rather than accusing those who do not even have some of his powers.
Eighthly, Accusing the US and Israel of supporting Hamas in its control of GS is odd and can’t be taken seriously. For example:
• The US-funded authority is the authority of President ‘Abbas.
• The authority that the US trains its Security Forces is the authority of President ‘Abbas.
• The authority that submits to the Israeli occupation, has security coordination with it, subjects to its conditions, and pursues the resistance is the authority of President ‘Abbas.
• The leadership that agreed to go ahead with the Israeli American terms, and concede most of Palestine (77%) and to recognize Israel, is the leadership and the party represented by President ‘Abbas.
• The three devastating wars waged by the Israeli forces against GS were against the Hamas-led resistance project, not against the authority of President ‘Abbas in Ramallah.
• Hamas is accused of terrorism in the US and the Western world, whereas red carpets are rolled out for ‘Abbas and his men in those countries.
In short, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones!”
Finally, President ‘Abbas’s speech, in the opinion of the author of these lines, has offended ‘Abbas himself, as well as Fatah and the PA in Ramallah, rather than Hamas.
And if ‘Abbas is talking about confronting the “Deal of the Century,” he must rather be open to Palestinian partnership. He must hasten the reform of the Palestinian political system, which everyone knows that it has become worn out, weak and retarded… He shouldn’t bring us back to square one, where there is conflict, division, and domination attempts, in order to meet the “outdated” Oslo entitlements, which were already ignored and overridden by the Israelis.
The Arabic version of this article appeared on Al Jazeera.net on 23/3/2018.