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Palestinian President is following footsteps of Arab Dictators

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting of Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) Central Council in Ramallah, West Bank on 6 February 2022 [Palestinian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting of Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) Central Council in Ramallah, West Bank on 6 February 2022 [Palestinian Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

The Palestinian cause has been affected by many miserable developments in the latest decade. The long-awaited reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas has yet to be accomplished; the Israeli settlement schemes are ongoing, with the nasty aim to swallow the entire West Bank; the US embassy was officially relocated to the occupied city of Jerusalem which killed any hope for the two-state solution; four Arab countries have officially normalised ties with the Israeli occupation; and, most horribly, Israel has massacred thousands of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and injured dozens of thousands, with no hope on the horizon to get the prisoners or refugees' issue solved.

However, the behaviour of the Palestinian leadership towards these heinous atrocities do not meet the minimum expectations of the Palestinian people, who have been, for more than seven decades, struggling against the Israeli occupation and the Zionist project in the region. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s behaviour has given an insult to the injury with new realities built in the ground, indicating that there is a rising elite from inside the Palestinian Authority (PA) which prefers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank to remain, given the fact that the elite's interests has become highly intertwined with the Israeli occupation's survival. Let alone the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas's recent actions which have shown that the Palestinian leader is doing nothing but following in the footsteps of the Arab dictators.

These actions, ranging from his ongoing punitive measures against the Gaza Strip, his security forces' crackdown on Palestinian dissidents in the West Bank, his decision to dissolve the only elected entity of the Palestinian Legislative Council "parliament" and, most recently, his unilateral decision to hold the PLO's Palestinian Central Council (PCC) that aims to arrange the post-Abbas era by giving more power and influence to the security-oriented team of Fatah, which already has good ties with Israel and its security agencies.

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Since the middle of 2017, the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority has been imposing punitive measures against the people of the Gaza Strip, under the pretext of "exerting pressure on Hamas to hand over Gaza's reins of power," in a move worsened the already wretched humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave. According to a report issued by the Human Rights Watch months after the sanctions went into effect, the PA's measures had "exacerbated" the people's cruel conditions caused by the Israeli 16-year-long blockade over Gaza. These measures, which also targeted Fatah members living in the impoverished Gaza, came within the policy of "collective punishment" which is a measure many Arab dictators resort to while dealing with their political opponents. Arab history is full of "collective punishment" crimes committed by Arab dictators against their peoples. Saddam Hussein's crimes against Kurds, Hafiz Assad's atrocities against people of Hama city, Muammer Gaddafi's massacres against the people of Benghazi and Misrata and, most recently, Abdel-Fattah Sisi's slaughter of the Rabaa Square protestors.

The second action of the Palestinian President's dictatorial behaviour had something to do with targeting his dissidents. Murdering the Palestinian renowned opposition figure, Nizar Banat, was a terrible example of this offensive policy. Banat was on top of an electoral list that was working day and night to run for the Palestinian parliament elections slated for May of last year. The whole electoral process was annulled and no one knows the exact reasons behind this, on the pretext of Israeli denial to hold them in Jerusalem, which was always present. Many Palestinian political powers, including Banat's electoral list were discussing alternatives to the Israeli decision, but all was in vain following Abbas' unilateral move. This incident has reminded the Palestinian people of the politically motivated assassinations that took place in neighbouring Arab countries, with these dictatorial regimes always treating the opposition figures as nothing but a probable threat.

Palestinians must ensure that Nizar Banat did not die in vain - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Palestinians must ensure that Nizar Banat did not die in vain – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Third, Abbas' move to abolish the Palestinian parliament as the only elected body was adopted without any legal grounds. The Palestinian parliament was elected in 2006, with political rival, Hamas, sweeping the results and taking more than 60 per cent of the seats. Since that time, Israel has jailed dozens of the West Bank's MPs, which contributed to disabling the activities of the parliament. Moreover, President Abbas ordered to shut the parliament's gates which hindered the holding of any parliament session for more than ten years. According to Palestinian basic law, no one has the authority to dissolve the Palestinian parliament which should continue until a new parliament is elected. Abbas had formed a constitutional court with a special task to dissolve the parliament, with the view of enabling the Palestinian President to seize control over the judicial, legislative and executive powers.

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Fourth – and very recent – the holding of the PLO's Central Council (PCC) in Ramallah to discuss very critical issues concerning the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and abroad. Further, the leadership's ignorance of the demands of three of the largest Palestinian factions (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and PFLP) request to hold a session of the PCC in line with the Palestinian people's highest aspirations. Contrarily, it was held to discuss very narrow partisan interests for Fatah, the President's faction, turning a blind eye to the Israeli daily violations in the occupied territories, most importantly the dramatic developments in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and the expansionist settlement policies in the occupied West Bank.

These actions tell that the Palestinian President has been ruling the occupied territories in a full-fledged dictatorial manner and has become a copy of an Arab dictator. The Palestinian leader is not only punishing his people collectively, but his security apparatus is getting rid of his dissidents, let alone the fact that his judicial entities are abolishing the elected assemblies to pave the way for the appointed institutions to arise.

By having the absolute power and annulling the presidential and legislative elections, President Abbas, regrettably, has turned into an overbearing dictator who is no longer the appropriate person to govern a great and revolutionary people like the Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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