Abbas moves to garner regional support for Palestinian Authority

Abbas is travelling to Jordan and Egypt to gain support in the face of mounting pressure from the US and Israel.
Tuesday 18/12/2018
Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas meet in Amman, on December 18. (AFP)
Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas meet in Amman, on December 18. (AFP)

CAIRO - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas travelled to Jordan and will be heading to Egypt in a bid to shore up Arab support for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which he leads, in the face of mounting pressure from the United States and Israel. 

There is a growing concern within the Palestinian Authority about the repercussions of events in the West Bank, most notably the Israeli military incursions that have reached the gates of the Palestinian Authority's official headquarters, as well as the continued Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territories.

Abbas also fears that negotiations between Israel and Hamas, through regional and international mediators that aim to secure a long-term truce in Gaza, will allow Hamas to strengthen its control of the Strip, and undermine the PA’s authority over the Palestinian cause. The truce in Gaza, he fears, would help Israel to tighten its grip on the West Bank. 

Israel would stand to benefit from the truce, given its inability to impose full annexation of the West Bank, preferring to give the Palestinians a truncated independence that does not amount to than full statehood.

The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said that he was ready to meet with Abbas anywhere the PA leader chooses to discuss the arrangement of an expanded Palestinian meeting and agree on national agendas for actions for the next stage.

Speaking at a festival in Gaza celebrating the anniversary of Hamas’s foundation, Haniyeh said: "The West Bank today says that it will not be the starting point for the deal of the century, but a cemetery for the deal of the century."

Jordan is likely to be negatively affected by the Israeli escalation in the West Bank or by the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. Jordan has common borders with the West Bank. Abbas said he is always keen to consult with King Abdullah II on the dangers of continued escalation in the West Bank.

The Palestinian president met Jordan's King Abdullah II on December 18, and will be meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo early next month, Palestinian sources said. 

Both meetings are set to explore finding a common Arab formula to discuss ways to face the consequences of the Israeli escalation, which threatens to further destabilise the region.

Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad Al-Malki, said that the Arab League agreed to a request by the State of Palestine to hold an emergency meeting at the level of delegates to discuss the Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people and its leadership.

Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs and a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, told The Arab Weekly from Ramallah that he believes that the goal of the Israeli escalation, led by the extreme right in Israel, is to bring down the PA and its leader, Abbas, for refusing to compromise on essential Palestinian rights.  

Israel, al-Sheikh said, is using the ongoing clashes in the West Bank as pretexts to undermine the PA’s authority in areas (A) which are supposed to be under the full jurisdiction of the PA. Abbas is traveling to Arab capitals to prevent the collapse of the PA in the West Bank, al-Sheikh said.

Israel is trying "to chip away at the prestige of the Palestinian Authority in the cities of the West Bank," al-Sheikh said.

Palestinian critics of Abbas, however, accuse him of seeking to turn the PA into a puppet that only he controls. They say that Abbas has weakened Fatah by excluding or undermining popular party leaders. They add that under Abbas’s leadership, the relations between Israel and the PA were confined to just security, rendering Palestinian security forces as mere agents for Israel.

The situation is exacerbated by statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who had explicitly underlined that there would be no Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank. The PA has seen in these remarks a clear Israeli intention to remove the Palestinian Authority.
Last June, Netanyahu's education minister and head of the Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, said: "The West Bank and all its settlements will soon become part of Israel."

Palestinian political analyst Akram Atallah told The Arab Weekly from Gaza that the Israeli project consists of putting in place a mini-state in Gaza and of taking control of large parts of the West Bank. 

Everything that is happening in the Gaza Strip comes in the context of the process of separating it completely from the West Bank and to reduce the PA’s in the West Bank to just that of a service provider, said Atallah. 

Atallah also linked what is happening “to the terms of the deal of the century, which require a weak Palestinian Authority.” He said: “Israel’s actions fall within the framework of the American deal, which provides for an authority on less than 42 percent of the West Bank, and a small state in Gaza. The current events in the West Bank lead to the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority or to leaving it to collapse completely.”

Political observers expect 2019 to be a dangerous year in the history of the Palestinian cause, as it will be the year during which the details of the “Deal of the Century”, tabled by US President Donald Trump, will be revealed.