+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Why is Mahmoud Abbas negotiating on behalf of Gaza?

When they emerge from the rubble, as they always do, who among Gaza’s Palestinians will look to Abu Mazen as their legitimate leader?

The Fatah chief is reportedly in Cairo today to meet with Egyptian strongman Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, whose “ceasefire proposal” to end the bloodshed in Gaza was promptly rejected as “a joke” by the Hamas leadership on Tuesday.

Today’s Haaretz affirms why:

Senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats said the reason the Egyptian ceasefire initiative was so short-lived is that it was prepared hastily and was not coordinated with all the relevant parties, particularly Hamas.

Why, then, had Abbas praised the terms of the Egyptian proposal? And what qualifies him to negotiate anything more representative of “the relevant parties”?

To answer that question, I turned to the Palestinian National Charter, from which Abbas – in his capacity as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – is supposed to derive whatever representative authority he has left (his term as president of the Palestinian Authority expired in January 2009).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the swearing in ceremony for the new unity government, Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo: Mustafa Bader/Activestills.org)

First, a reminder: of the charter’s 33 articles, all but five were nullified or gutted of language deemed objectionable to Israel. Those changes were affirmed by then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in a letter to President Bill Clinton dated January 13, 1998. The letter, which can be found here, noted that the PLO’s main legislative body – the Palestine National Council – had approved the changes in an “extraordinary session” held in, of all places, Gaza.

Among the articles left on the cutting room floor was number 22, which begins:

Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods.

To watch Gaza burn, one wonders whether these words would sound objectionable today. But that’s a matter for pollsters or media mavens. The point is that no such language remains. Instead, what’s left in the amended document is a set of mostly innocuous clauses specifying, for example, that the PLO “shall have a flag, an oath of allegiance, and an anthem.”

But one untouched article, number 30, caught my eye:

The Palestinian people believe in the principles of justice, freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, human dignity, and in the right of all peoples to exercise them.

Had Mahmoud Abbas affirmed that right, clearly and forcefully, on day one of Israel’s Ramadan Massacre, he might have had the ear of its battered survivors. When they emerge among the rubble, as they always do, who among them will look to Abu Mazen as their legitimate leader? Bookmark that question. For now, the killing continues.

Related:
Why there is no room for diplomacy in Gaza
Why isn’t the West Bank rioting, too?

Newsletter banner 4 - 540

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Arb

      And Hamas, which has not held an election in just as long and has brought its people three Israeli operations in the last few years, what legitimacy do they possess?

      Oh, I know, the millions they personally earned from their tunnel economy.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        They’ll remember, above all else, that Abbas could have pushed for an acceptance of Hamas’ terms (end to hostilities and release of people arrested for no crime apart from being members of a political party), or negotiations about them, but chose to play around with his new friend the Egyptian generalissimo.

        Reply to Comment
        • Arb

          Hamas terms?

          What the hell are you talking about? A little terror organization that is holding its people hostage, using them as human shields and wasting their resources on enriching themselves and acquiring tools to attack a far stronger enemy actually has the right to dictate terms?

          What kind of person are you?

          Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            They have the right to dictate terms, as distasteful as you and I might find it, because they are a political figure with influence among the Palestinian people. Your “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” line has brought about no good in this situations thus far. Time to put your Jewish pride away for a while and focus on the part Israel can play in ending innocent deaths.

            Reply to Comment
          • Arb

            My “Jewish pride?”

            Well, at least you’ve conclusively answered what kind of person you are.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            The sort of person who doesn’t think “national security” or “getting the bad guys” comes before doing no harm?

            Reply to Comment
          • Arb

            No, you are an anti-Semite who supports terrorists and believes they should be appeased.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            Reza’s comment was not anti-Semitic, Likud troll. Hamas’s conditions for a cease-fire are reasonable and representative of the constituency that it was elected to serve.

            Begin was a terrorist who was elected, and he did just fine negotiating with Sadat.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            Yes and Begin denied Egypt’s right to exist, right?

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            “Hamas’s conditions for a cease-fire are reasonable and representative of the constituency that it was elected to serve.”

            Hmmmmm …. “they were elected to serve” ….

            In other words, Hamas represent the people of Gaza, right?

            Of course right. So where is this nonsense about “collective punishment” coming from?

            Hamas fires rockets on Israel. In other words, Gazans make war on Israel.

            Therefore, Israel is allowed to fight back and apply sufficient pain to cause Hamas to stop. So if Gazans get hurt, and they want to stop the hurt, they should make their elected government (Hamas) stop firing rockets on Israeli men, women and children. Otherwise the war goes on and people get hurt. That’s what happens in all wars.

            Collective punishment has nothing to do with it. It is just a catchy propaganda slogan designed to try to force one party, Israel, not to react to attacks on their citizens. Right, Goldie?

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            Oops, JohhnyBoy, you forgot just two things:

            1) I’ve never uttered the phrase “collective punishment”

            2) Israel does not have the ‘right of self-defense’ when being attacked by resistance from a territory that Israel has besieged since the election of Hamas.

            You see, JohnnyBoy, this is how it has played out: a bully attacks a perceived weakling because the bully doesn’t like what he’s hearing. The perceived weakling fights back. Then the bully responds with overwhelming fisticuffs, screaming that he is just defending himself. Poor Israel!

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            Oops, no Goldie, once again you got it all wrong. The rocket fire from Gaza did not start in 2005 when Hamas got elected. It started in 2001. Here look:

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel

            “Since 2001, Palestinian militants have launched thousands of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip as part of the continuing Arab–Israeli conflict.”

            As for whether you are the one who talks about “collective punishment”, I care not. But your fellow propagandists DO. That is why I mentioned it to remind you how full of it you lot are, collectively. You do know what I mean by the word “it”? I don’t think I need to spell it out. But if you ask nicely, I will.

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            “2) Israel does not have the ‘right of self-defense’ when being attacked by resistance from a territory that Israel has besieged since the election of Hamas.”

            This bit of nonsense from you Goldie, merits a second post.

            1. Everyone without exception, Arabs and Israelis alike have the ‘right of self-defense’ .

            2. The rockets from Gaza were started in 2001. At that time, the excuse was ‘Occupation and Settlements’.

            3. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally and dismantled all the settlements in Gaza. The rockets continued.

            4. In 2006, Hamas won a majority of the votes in the Palestinian legislative elections. The rockets from Gaza continued.

            5. In 2007, Hamas turned on the PA and ousted their influence in Gaza entirely. They murdered quite a few members of Fatah in that process. And the rocket fire continued.

            Only after all that did Israel institute a full blockade of Gaza. A blockade which it subsequently eased but not eliminated. Not eliminated for very good reasons which I mentioned before and you know very well Goldie.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            My posts are tailored to the person to which I am responding; most of the decent folks who post here do that. You, apparently, feel that you can attribute other phrases I did not use to me because others have used it. And you wonder why you have credibility issues.

            By the way. ‘collective punishment’ is a phrase, not by me, but by all the major human rights organizations in condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza over the years. Only a paranoid freak would imply that they’re conspiring or campaigning against Israel because of that.

            “Everyone without exception, Arabs and Israelis alike have the ‘right of self-defense’ .” Really? Did the Nazis have the right to self-defense against the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto? Without exception, right?

            Reply to Comment
          • Arb

            No Goldmarx, it was an anti-Semitic remark.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            What credibility do you have in judging what is anti-Semitic since you accused Eli Valley of that?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “The sort of person who doesn’t think “national security” or “getting the bad guys” comes before doing no harm?”

            Harm to whom? You don’t seem to mind too much if Israelis get harmed. But Arabs? Oy vavoy, that’s a big no no, right?

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            Harming innocents is wrong, whoever does it. I do ask you to remember, though, which side has thus far racked up a collateral damage kill-count of 1, and which side has done so in the triple digits.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            The death toll in Israel has been more than 1.

            And it isn’t just the death toll. It is the idea of living under the constant threat of death.

            Now I ask you? Who is the one who insists on violence? Hint: Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease fire proposal. Hamas did not!

            Reply to Comment
        • Whiplash

          Abbas could have also condemned Hamas as a terrorist group and enemy of the Palestinian people.

          Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            No, actually. They’re part of the new government. I bet you’d love more PLO/Hamas conflict, though?

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            No actually, coalition partners in Arab countries mustn’t criticize each other.

            Oh but wait. In Israel they do and Israel has not collapsed. Much to your sorrow, right?

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            There is a difference: Israel does not have a provisional government, subject to the whims and caprices of a foreign military. Palestine does; they can’t afford political division at this point, because it only helps Israel to take advantage of them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Yes according to you lot there is always an excuse for Arabs. Israelis? Not so much right?

            Reply to Comment
    2. Interested Observer

      Samer:

      Shouldn’t you global Leftists decide what you want already?

      The global Left keeps threatening to take their Jewish enemy to the ICC. But wait, can’t do that because since the unity government was enacted every “Palestinian” official is potentially a war criminal and all of Gaza (every man, woman, and child soldier; every unlawful combatant and human shield) would be in the dock. Whoops.

      But we’re going to go to the ICC anyways. Just you see! Because Resistance!

      Tic, toc, tic, toc. Still waiting.

      Oh, but its gets better. The global Left has other threats.

      We’re going to the UN to make ourselves a State, you puff. (Which we’ve been a state for almost three decades since 1988; but we’re stateless. But we’re a state.). Just you see. And our unity government! Oh most blessed Allah, glory be! We global Leftists have our long-awaited unity government.

      But then I read this article. An unhinged rant by some dude who’s angry that his President is negotiating on behalf of his government. “Who is this Mahmoud Abbas,” (who just set up a unity government with himself as President), you angrily fume, “to negotiate for the government we just set up.” Wait, aren’t you a State and didn’t you just set up a new government a few weeks ago. I’m confused.

      The contradictions continue.

      We love death more than the Yahood love life, you chant by the millions. And we’ll reject the ceasefire so that we can kill more of our children. But then you turn around and whine about how fascist it is for Israelis to bomb your human shields. Wait! Didn’t you just say you love death? What are you complaining about? Didn’t you just reject a ceasefire? Totally confused.

      We love Jerusalem. And that’s why we bomb it.

      We want a secular, democratic state. But we’re allied with North Korea and the Islamic Republic.

      We want the US to be on our side; we attack their allies and burn their flags.

      We launch missiles at innocents, but don’t understand why the Lebanese government won’t let “Palestinian” refugees into their country.

      Honestly, how do you guys live with your irrationality and contradictions?

      (Reminder: The presence of civilians does not render a Gazan military target immune from attack. The global Left bears sole responsibility for any deaths that have happened in Gaza.)

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard Witty

      There will have to be a new generation.

      But, Hamas has zero credibility now. They are broke, no arsenal, nakedly putting civilian Gazans at extremely grave risk.

      For NOTHING entirely.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sonnenuhr

        Hamas did not act for nothing. They did it to save their own skin. Without putting Gazans at risk of death, their popularity and relevance to the Palestinian people was at risk. The easiest way for Hamas to reclaim attention was to sacrifice a couple of hundred Palestinians. Hamas saw this as a small price to pay. Former interior minister in Gaza Fathi Hammad often said that Palestinians love death as Israelis love life.

        Hamas might be broke, but Qatar and other Gulf states will provide economic aid to the Gaza strip, relieving Hamas of its responsibility for its actions. Hamas again will be able to concentrate on the next war on how to cause more death and injury.

        As far as hoping for a new generation, please remind yourself that Hamas has been educating the youth according to its genocidal Charter and providing military training to over 100,000 youth. The PA still glorifies terrorism, asks its children to emulate terrorists, and pays terrorists in jail salaries.

        You need more than a change of a generation, you need a shift in the Palestinians’ view of liberation by violent resistance.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Richard

      Why? Looking for a cause. We all are. Why? The questions lives eternally. Hamas? Yes. No? Perhaps there is no path for this weary traveller, and yet…the dirt is stuck beneath our toes.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aVdim

      Why is Mahmoud Abbas negotiating on behalf of Gaza?

      Several possible reasons

      1. He is the president of the most wonderful and glorious unity government in the universe.

      2. He wants to score political points

      3. He actually cares for the people of Gaza and wants the killing to stop.

      Reason 3 makes him a traitor, because the people of Gaza love death. At least according to Hamas.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Mikesailor

      Abbas is a perfect example of a Quisling. When Israeli snipers killed those two Palestinian teens in May, he kept his mouth shuit lest he offend Netanyahu. When the three Jewish teens were killed, he offered to help Netanyahu yet kept quiet while Israel went on a rampage in the West Bank: closing off villages, erecting flying checkpoints, killing and wounding civilians left and right. And, above all, arresting Hamas members and other Palestinian critics of the PA. The PA is now officially Israeli collaborators in the oppression of Palestinians. What didn’t Abbas do? He didn’t go before the media deploring this Israeli war against Hamas, the group he wanted to form a unity government with over Israeli objections, but instead aided Israel at every turn. He didn’t even go to the UN although even Erekat asked him to do so. Then, with Israel turning its sights on Hamas in Gaza, he has taken the opportunity to bend over, not only for his erstwhile Israelis, but also for the new Egyptian military dictatorship. Does anyone really think that Abbas has any credibility among the Palestinians when he even sold out his governmental partners as well as all the Palestinians to please the Israelis and their moneyman: the US? He is a patheric farce. So is the US government and the Arab states which are staying conspicuosly silent while Palestinian civilians die. Why? Because the Arabs would rather support ISIS and their takeover of Iraq with the silent acquiscence of the US which can’t see that ISIS is far more of a threat than Iran ever has been. The stupidity of US policy is unbelievable.And the support of Israel is criminal.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kiwi

        “Reason 3 makes him a traitor, because the people of Gaza love death. At least according to Hamas.”

        And according to the Mikesailors of this world.

        Reply to Comment
        • Mikesailor

          O flightless bird from the land where Israelis love to steal passports, why would you think Hamas, and the people in Gaza ‘love death’? Are you really that much of a moron, or do you just play one on these forums? The people of Gaza have been brutalized by Israel for decades. First, by being expelled from their lands in the villages around Beersheva and Ashdod. Who do you think lived there before the Jews ‘immigrated’? And who were terrorized and expelled? Who lives in the world’s largest open-air prison, a prison where the Warsaw ghetto of WWII infamy is compared favorably.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            Go preach your one sided simplistic stories to someone who does not know what goes on. Not to this flightless bird whom you irrelevantly named so.

            Reply to Comment
          • Oren Aviv

            Flightless? Spineless you mean. One is that when one cannot stand up and say the truth even if it offends ones friends.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Click here to load previous comments