Mahmoud Abbas is the President of the Palestinian National Authority, the embryo of the Palestinian state agreed upon in the Oslo Accords in 1993. He is the Supreme Commander of the Palestinian Armed Forces, and appoints the Prime Minister (now Rami Hamdallah). ) and ambassadors abroad. It exercises partial control over the West Bank, most of which is occupied by the Israeli army.
Abbas came to power after the death of the historic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He has always been considered a moderate and practical man. He belongs to the secular Fatah movement, which opposes Hamas. He is also known by his Arabic nickname Abu Mazen (Mazen's father, the name of his eldest son). He is 88 years old. When he was born, Israel did not exist.
Away from the political spotlight
Abbas is the interlocutor between the United States, the European Union, and countries such as Spain. However, the Palestinian politician seems blurry these months, relatively far from the political and media spotlight. He rarely gives interviews. This is precisely at a time when Palestine is suffering from the worst massacre in its history. The civilian death toll confirmed by authorities in Gaza, about 27,000, is double the estimated death toll in the first war in 1948. It was the Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly removed from their lands and displaced. They had to take refuge in Gaza and the West Bank.
“The National People's Army is completely silent and this silence is surprising, precisely because it is the biggest tragedy since 1948 and expects a more vocal role than those who are the leaders of all Palestinians,” researcher Jürgen Genshaugen explains to the newspaper's president. Oslo Peace Institute. In any case, they don't have much room to move, and they are competing with one of the biggest public relations machines, the Israeli machine.
“The United States talks with the Gulf states, with Egypt, and with Israel, but only the Palestinians are the subject of discussion. The problem is that the Palestinians are considered either victims or terrorists, but they are rarely interlocutors. The exceptions have been negotiations.” Stages (1990s and early 2000s). Now it seems that we are returning to a situation in which the Palestinians are dealt with, but there is no dialogue with them.”
Despite Abbas's insistence on a peaceful path (he was always from the moderate wing of the Fatah movement) and his cooperation with Israel on security issues, the Netanyahu government despised him and systematically undermined his authority, encouraging the rise of the Islamist Hamas movement. . Divide and conquer.
This deliberate political weakening by the occupying power is only part of the problem, and not the only one. Abbas and the Afghan National Party have low legitimacy with each other. The last elections were held in 2006, 18 years ago. Israel prevents elections from being held in East Jerusalem, which is one of the three parts that make up Palestine, along with Gaza and the West Bank. Abbas realizes that he will inevitably lose in the new elections.
A poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Surveys, published in December, shows clear disapproval of President Abbas: nine out of ten respondents believe he should resign.
“The Palestinian National Authority faces three problems: First, many Palestinians view it as an extension of the Israeli military occupation, as a kind of first instance of Israel’s security. Second, they are seen as corrupt. Finally, they have authoritarian tendencies, and practice censorship,” says Genshaugen. “And control the birth sector.”
The Palestinian population holds them responsible for their failure to make progress towards establishing the Palestinian state promised in the 1993 Oslo Accords. Most of the time, they did not have a clear partner to negotiate with on the Israeli side. Benjamin Netanyahu first came to power in 1996 with an agenda openly aimed at derailing these peace agreements. Since then, he has ruled Israel for nearly a decade and has never shown interest in negotiating, but has shown interest in significantly increasing the occupied Palestinian territories.
In addition, the security situation in the West Bank, People's National Army area, is poor. This year alone, before the war began, 205 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army or settlers. They constantly suffer from incursions by Israeli forces, settler violence, demolition of infrastructure, and restrictions on movement. After the massacre committed by Hamas in Israel on October 7 (which killed about 1,150 people, according to official figures), the madness spread: at least 358 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Risk of collapse
“I was already warning of the risk of the collapse of the NPA before the October 7 attacks, mainly because the budget situation is poor, with a lack of liquidity, and a complex political situation, with a huge lack of political legitimacy between the two parties.” its inhabitants,” says Jensehaugen.
Now the picture is much worse. Especially due to threats to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). It is responsible for providing basic services to six million Palestinians: education, health and food.
Since Israel said ten of its 30,000 workers helped kill Hamas, the United States, Germany and Sweden, among other major donors, have said they will suspend all aid until the ongoing internal investigation to clear them is resolved.
If the threat to cut off their funding is finally carried out, chaos awaits in the West Bank refugee camps (which are actually small towns). Schools, hospitals and garbage collection will not work.
“If the fields collapse, there is a very real risk that the NPA will drag itself along with it, bankrupting it,” the analyst concludes.
Within Israel, two visions coexist, the vision of ideologues and the vision of pragmatists. The former wants UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority to disappear. On this side will be the religious extremists and nationalists, whose goal is to establish Israel in the entire region, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Pragmatists see both as necessary structures to be able to maintain the status quo.
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