The Abbas controversy
No excuse for anti-Semitism

On 30 April, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a long speech in front of the troubled Palestinian National Council. Abdalhadi Alijla explains why the ongoing caesura in negotiations with Israel can never serve to justify racist remarks

Over the last year, Mahmoud Abbas has felt increasingly betrayed by the international community and is visibly frustrated by the failure of his political agenda. In three recent keynote speeches – to the National Council Speech on 30 April, the Executive Committee and Fatah Central Committee on 19 March, and in another to the Central Council – he spoke at length about the history of Zionism, immigration to Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel on the ruins of the Palestinian people.

Abbas, who has a Ph.D. in the history of Zionism from Russia, would seem either to be pursuing his long-standing ambition of being a lecturer, or maybe merely seeking to fill the time allotted to him in the meeting programmes. Indeed, rather than pressing issues related to current events –Trumpʹs plans, national reconciliation, Palestinian strategy with regard to the deadlocked peace process and the apparent end of the two-state solution – all three speeches were characterised by a 70% focus on history.

The President of the Palestinian Authority, who has failed to meet the political agenda upon which he was elected in 2005, is now firing off verbal salvos in all directions. In March, he called the U.S. ambassador to Israel a "son of a dog" in Tel Aviv. He has also accused Hamas of not wanting national unity and of sanctioning his people by cutting social services and salaries that keep Gazans alive amid Israelʹs siege.

Legitimacy on the wane

This pronounced change in tone is a sign of Abbasʹ frustration, hopelessness and failure, perceiving himself to have been betrayed by all international actors, including his Arab allies Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, he is facing a legitimacy dilemma.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Shimon Peres puts his signature on the agreement during the signing ceremony of the historic Israeli-PLO Agreement, known as the Oslo 1 Accord, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on September 13, 1993. Pictured, from left to right: Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev of Russia; Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel; unknown aide; United States President Bill Clinton; Peres; Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO); U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher; and Arafat aide Mahmoud Abbas (photo: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Sachs)
More hopeful times: Oslo I, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or in short Declaration of Principles (DOP), was an attempt in 1993 to set up a framework that would lead to the resolution of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was the first face-to-face agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Negotiations concerning the agreement, an outgrowth of the Madrid Conference of 1991, were conducted secretly in Oslo, Norway, hosted by the Fafo Institute and completed on 20 August 1993. The Oslo Accords were officially signed at a public ceremony in Washington, D.C. on 13 September 1993

Abbas has now been president of the PLO and the PA for more than 13 years without elections. The PLO and its National Council are represented mainly by Fatah, which is riven by divisions between its activists and the executive. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP have all boycotted the current Palestinian National Council, which is considered by Palestinians around the world, refugees and non-refugees alike, as the parliament of the PLO.

The last time the PNC convened was in 1996, when Arafat changed the National Constitution during former President Clintonʹs visit to Gaza. Since the death of Arafat, however, the legitimacy of PNC members and the legitimacy of the president has waned.

More on this topic