Abbas decries pressure from the US, Russia and the Arab world

‘No one will dictate to us any position,’ PA leader says; Palestinian press suggests he’s irked by demand to reconcile with Dahlan

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Israeli journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Israeli journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pushed back against attempts by foreign capitals, including Moscow, Washington and other unnamed Arab capitals, to intervene in internal Palestinians affairs.

“Our relations with everyone must be good, but no one will dictate to us any position or idea… Therefore, let us think as Palestinians. I will think about Palestine, not Washington or Moscow,” said Abbas Saturday night during a meeting in Ramallah, according to footage aired by the official PA news channel Palestine TV the following day.

After mentioning Washington and Moscow, Abbas said he was also tired of “other capitals,” apparently in the Arab world, adding that he wouldn’t mention them by name in order not to insult them.

“Release us from the capitals, and from the money of the capitals and the influence of the capitals. We want to work as Palestinians,” said Abbas, who appeared emotional during his statements.

Washington is a long-time player in Palestinian politics, and has reportedly been working to set up a meeting between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Moscow, which has close ties to Ramallah, has also recently offered to host a meeting between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

However, Abbas has refused to meet with Netanyahu until Israel agrees to a total freeze of settlement construction and to the release of a fourth batch of Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners promised during negotiations in 2014 — conditions Netanyahu is unlikely to agree to.

The Palestinian press concentrated on Abbas’s mention of the unnamed capitals, which they believed to be a thinly veiled allusion to the so-called Arab Quartet: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, the Arab quartet met a few days ago with members of Abbas’s Fatah party in a bid to “restore unity” in Fatah and subsequently between Fatah and its bitter rival Hamas, the Islamist party in control of the Gaza Strip.

Abbas’s statements also coincide with a recent push for reconciliation between him and former Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan, who was expelled from the Palestinian territories by Abbas in 2011 and currently resides in the UAE.

Mohammad Dahlan in 2006 (Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Mohammad Dahlan in 2006 (Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Among the heads of state who have weighed in on Abbas-Dahlan reconciliation are Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

As the Palestinians prepare for municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza in October, candidates linked to Dahlan have avoided running on slates other than those of Fatah, a move seen as a positive step toward reconciliation with Abbas.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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