[News] Palestine’s Crisis of Leadership: Did Abbas Destroy Palestinian Democracy?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 4 14:57:02 EDT 2015

September 4, 2015

  Palestine’s Crisis of Leadership: Did Abbas Destroy Palestinian

by Ramzy Baroud <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/ramzy-baroud/>


The crisis of leadership throughout Palestinian history did not start 
with Mahmoud Abbas and will, regrettably, be unlikely to end with his 
departure. Although Abbas has, perhaps, done more damage to the 
credibility of the Palestinian leadership than any other leader in the 
past, he is also a by-product of a process of political fraud that 
started much earlier than his expired Presidency.

Abbas’ unforeseen announcement on August 27 that he, along with a few 
others, will resign from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) 
Executive Committee and his call for an emergency session of the 
Palestine National Council (PNC) is a testament to his poor management. 
More, it shows his utter disregard for the minimally-required threshold 
of responsible leadership.

Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, has used and discarded the 
PLO and its various, now near-defunct, institutions as his personal 
political playground: summoning PNC members to vote on pre-determined 
and decided agendas and to cast and re-cast roles within the PLO’s 
Executive Committee as a way to punish and reward.

Now, at the age of 80, Abbas is obviously concerned about his legacy, 
the fate of the PLO and his Palestinian Authority (PA), once he is gone. 
Whatever political maneuvering he has planned for the future (including 
the selection of new Executive Committee members, which will be overseen 
by him and by his allies) is hardly encouraging. According to the Unity 
deal signed between Abbas’ faction, Fatah and Hamas, the restructuring 
of the PLO as a pre-requisite to include both Hamas and the Islamic 
Jihad in one unifying and relatively representative Palestinian body was 
a top priority.

Well, not anymore. Hamas is furious with Abbas’ call for reconvening the 
PNC, a two-day session scheduled to be held in Ramallah, West Bank next 
month. The Gaza-headquartered Movement is calling on Palestinian 
factions not to participate. Either way, further Palestinian disunity is 

Now that unity remains elusive, Hamas is seeking its own alternatives to 
breaking the Gaza siege by conducting what is being described as 
‘indirect talks’ with Israel, via the notorious former British Prime 
Minister, Tony Blair. The latter has reportedly met Hamas leader, Khaled 
Meshaal, on more than one occasion. The discussions included a long-term 
ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in exchange for the permission of a 
safe sea passage where Palestinians in Gaza can enjoy a degree of 
freedom, bypassing Israeli and Egyptian siege and restrictions.

Needless to say, if the reports regarding Blair’s role in the indirect 
negotiations and Hamas’ intentions are accurate, it would indeed be a 
great folly. On the one hand, Blair’s pro-Israel record disqualifies him 
from the role of any honest mediation. On the other, Resistance or truce 
is not a political decision to be determined by a single faction, no 
matter how great its sacrifices or how trustworthy its intentions.

In addition, Abbas is in no position to criticize Hamas for its talks 
with Blair. It is particularly disingenuous that Abbas and his party are 
accusing Hamas of flouting Palestinian Unity and consensus, while both – 
Abbas and Fatah – have contributed to Palestine’s political afflictions 
more than any other leader or faction in the past. In fact, while Gaza 
subsisted and suffered terribly under a protracted Israeli siege and 
successive wars, Abbas operated his PA outfit in Ramallah with the full 
consent of the Israeli Government. The so-called ‘security 
coordination’, chiefly aimed at crushing Palestinian Resistance in the 
West Bank, continued unabated.

This is what Israeli political commentator, Raviv Drucker, wrote in 
Haaretz in an article that reprimanded Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin 
Netanyahu, for failing to appreciate the value of Abbas:

“Our greatest high-tech geniuses working in the most sophisticated 
laboratories could not invent a more comfortable Palestinian partner. A 
leader with no one to the left of him in the Palestinian political arena 
and one who, when his enemy, Israel, bombs his people in Gaza, comes out 
with a statement criticizing those who kidnap Israeli soldiers.”

Abbas has shown little compassion for Gaza. Neither has he demonstrated 
any respect for the Palestinian people nor has he invested sincere 
efforts aimed at making Palestinian unity his top priority. It is rather 
telling that he is activating the PNC, summoning its nearly 700 members, 
not to discuss the intensifying Palestinian crises – from Gaza to 
Jerusalem to Yarmouk – but rather to concoct another cozy arrangement 
for him and his cronies.

Yet, this crisis of leadership precedes Abbas.

The PNC’s first meeting was held in Jerusalem in 1964. Since then and 
for years now, despite the Parliament’s many flaws, it serves an 
important mission. It was a platform for Palestinian political dialogue; 
and, over the years, it helped define Palestinian national identity and 
priorities. But gradually, starting with Arafat’s elections as the head 
of the PLO in February 1969, the PNC ceased being a Parliament, and 
became, more or less, a political rubber stamp that validated all 
decisions made by Arafat’s PLO and, specifically, his Fatah faction.

This has been highlighted repeatedly throughout history with several 
prominent examples:

On November 12, 1988 the PNC convened in Algiers to approve of a 
political strategy based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338, the habitual US 
condition for engaging the PLO. At the end of deliberation and, based on 
that approval, Arafat announced an independent Palestinian State, to be 
established in the Occupied Territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Despite this, the US still argued that the PNC statement did not qualify 
for an ‘unconditional’ acceptance of Resolution 242, hence pressing 
Arafat for more concessions. Arafat flew to Geneva and addressed the UN 
General Assembly on December 13, 1988, since the US refused to grant him 
an entry visa to speak at the UN Headquarters in New York. He labored to 
be even more specific.

However, the US maintained its position, compelling Arafat, on the next 
day, to reiterate the same previous statements, this time, explicitly 
renouncing “all forms of terrorism, including individual, group or state 

This was not the only time the PNC and its respected members were 
dragged into the political gambles of Palestinian leaders. In 1991, they 
voted in favor of direct negotiations in Madrid between Palestinians and 
Israel, only to be hoodwinked by Arafat, who negotiated a secret 
agreement in Oslo that paid little heed to Palestinian consensus. PNC 
was once more summoned to Gaza in 1996 to omit parts of the Palestinian 
Charter deemed unacceptable by Netanyahu and the then US President, Bill 
Clinton. As PNC members voted, Clinton, present at the meeting, nodded 
in agreement.

But unlike Arafat’s misuse of democracy and manipulation of the PNC – 
which is no longer representative or, with its current factional makeup 
is, frankly, irrelevant – Abbas’ game is even more dangerous.

Arafat used the Council to ratify or push his own agenda, which he 
mistakenly deemed suitable for Palestinian interests. Abbas’ agenda, 
however, is entirely personal, entirely elitist and entirely corrupt. 
Worse, it comes at a time when Palestinian unity is not just a matter of 
smart strategy, but is critical in the face of the conceivable collapse 
of the entire Palestinian national project.

There is no doubt that the moment when Abbas exits the scene has 
arrived. That could either become a transition into yet another sorry 
legacy of an undemocratic Palestinian leadership or it could serve as an 
opportunity for Palestinians, fed up with the endemic corruption, 
political tribalism and across-the-board failure, to step forward and 
challenge the moral collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the 
charade of self-serving ‘democracy’ of factions and individuals.

/*Dr. Ramzy Baroud* has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media 
consultant, an author of several books and the founder of 
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom 
Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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