Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for Palestinian protesters to stop clashing with Israeli security forces at flashpoint sites across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
At a Fatah Central Committee meeting this week in Ramallah, Abbas, who is also the head of Fatah, said that innocent people are being harmed and that he has no interest in seeing more Palestinians killed, according to a Saturday report in Dunya al-Watan, a Palestinian newspaper.
Abbas also said during the meeting that the events in recent weeks — namely the wave of violence marked by Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis, and clashes across the West Bank — has put the Palestinian issue back on the international agenda.
At least 10 Israelis have been killed since October 1 in over 45 separate stabbing or shooting attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Over 50 Palestinians also died in the past three weeks of violence, at least 28 of them attackers. The others were killed in clashes with Israeli forces.
Abbas has called for “peaceful resistance” to Israel and has — publicly, at least — supported the idea of a return to the negotiating table, even as he’s been accused by Israel of inciting violence and fanning the flames of the recent escalation.
Others within his Fatah movement have been more openly supportive of the emerging “intifada.”
Last week, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfik Tirawi, a former General Intelligence director in the West Bank, portrayed the current spate of attacks as a spontaneous popular movement that no leader can stop.
“This popular movement was unleashed through no decision, and no one can stop it, decision or not,” Tirawi told Al-Alam, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in Arabic.
The uprising, he argued, was a natural result of the Palestinian sense of solitude given “Israeli actions, American bias, European weakness and Arab fragmentation.”
Tirawi found himself defending this position at the Fatah Central Committee meeting on Wednesday, even getting into a physical altercation — and a water fight — with another member, according to Dunya al-Watan.
When Mahmoud Alaloul, head of Tanzim — the militant faction of Fatah — said that the Palestinian protests were under control and that his faction would handle it, Tirawi, shot back: “who said they were under control”?
The confrontation escalated to a shouting match and then the two threw bottles and cups of water at each other.
Tirawi also told Abbas, according to the report, that those who believed the Palestinian leadership had any influence on the protests were deluding themselves.
The newspaper also reported a breakdown in ties between Abbas and deputy secretary-general of Fatah’s Central Committee Jibril Rajoub, who has also openly praised individual attacks against Israelis as acts of noble self-sacrifice.
But their new disagreement is reportedly over an upcoming soccer game against Saudi Arabia. Rajoub, who also serves as head of the Palestinian soccer association, sought to host the game in Ramallah but the Saudis objected, arguing that it would amount to “normalization” with Israel and demanded the game be held in the kingdom. Rajoub called a press conference and announced that the Palestinians were insisting the game be held on Palestinian territory.
Abbas intervened and said the match would not take place in the West Bank, effectively meeting the Saudi demand.
The tiff exacerbated an already testy relationship between the two, as Abbas sees Rajoub as trying to maneuver himself into a position where he could take over the Palestinian Authority as his successor.
Rajoub boycotted the Fatah meeting.
Abbas was set to meet later Saturday in Amman with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian King Abdullah II to discuss ways to restore calm amid international pressure to do so.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.