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EDITORIAL: The long-brewing resentment over Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mehmoud Abbas’s undemocratic rule and failure to push the national liberation cause has started to erupt in street protests.

Last Monday, hundreds of Palestinian lawyers in the West Bank town of Ramallah staged protest demonstrations against what they described his “rule by decree”.

Notably, the 87-year-old Abbas elected president in 2005, following the death of the charismatic Fatah leader Yasser Arafat, remains insistent on clinging on to power long past the end of his term in office.

The Palestinian Legislative Council has also ceased to exist since Fatah’s rival Islamist movement, Hamas, swept to victory in the 2006 Legislative Council elections, leading to a split in Palestinian governance with Hamas running the Gaza Strip and Fatah retaining control of the occupied West Bank. With elections long overdue Abbas has been ruling by issuing as many as over 400 presidential decrees.

As President of the Palestinian Bar Association, Suheil Ashour, told journalists his organisation would stand firm against legislation delivered by presidential decrees that curbed “Palestinian rights and freedoms” the protest is reflective of a deepening internal crisis because of PA’s status quo policies.

Regardless of the fact that Israel has relentlessly been confiscating more and more of Palestinian lands for expansion of Jewish settlements, illegal under international law, Abbas continues to offer Israel security cooperation in exchange for some small economic benefits, such as work and entry permits for his people and advances on tax money, which does little to banish poverty but serves Israel’s interests at the cost of Palestinian rights.

For a while, PA police have also been cracking down on events organised to welcome Hamas-affiliated Palestinians released from Israeli prisons with Hamas reacting by accusing Abbas of preaching “negotiations and peaceful resistance”, which “only serves the occupation and its policies of persecuting resistance in the West Bank.”

While Hamas bemoans PA’s approach to the problem of occupation, anger against PA and Abbas is rising. Protest demonstrations in Palestinian territories are becoming frequent and aggressive.

Meanwhile, new realities have emerged in the region. Some of the influential Arab states have normalised relations with Israel. Although Saudi Arabia still pays lip-service to the 2002 Arab Peace Plan that called for Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders in return for normalisation, it too is preparing to follow suit.

The Biden administration has already refused to reverse Donald Trump’s decision to move US embassy from Tel Aviv to East Jerusalem (embassy was moved Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018), which the Palestinians want as the capital of their ever elusive future state.

In fact, during his recent visit to Israel Joe Biden made it clear where he stands when he said, “you don’t need to be a Jew to be a Zionist.”

Abbas needs to stop playing tricks with his people, like he did last year setting dates for presidential and legislative elections across Palestinian territories, with Hamas’s participation, but then called off the polls citing Israel’s refusal to allow voting in the annexed East Jerusalem. Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) must step down and allow a new leadership to deal with new realities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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