Abbas reopens peace NGO in wake of EU pressure
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Abbas reopens peace NGO in wake of EU pressure

Move reverses a presidential order to shutter the Palestinian Peace Coalition run by rival Yasser Abed Rabbo

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 31, 2015. (Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 31, 2015. (Flash90)

Palestinian officials said Thursday that European intervention has led Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to rescind his decision to shutter an internationally funded peace center run by political rival Yasser Abed Rabbo, Reuters reported.

Last week, a presidential decree ordered that the offices of the Palestinian Peace Coalition be closed and its assets in Ramallah seized by the Palestinian Information Ministry.

No official reason was given for the termination, but according to the report the move was seen as an attempt to marginalize Abed Rabbo, who has been openly critical of Abbas.

The PPC promotes an unofficial peace plan known as the Geneva Initiative, in conjunction with Israeli counterpart Heskem.

Last month, Abbas dismissed Abed Rabbo from his position as secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the second-highest post behind that of the president himself.

A Palestinian official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that European countries — and in particular Switzerland — had leaned on the Palestinian government in Ramallah to keep the organization running.

In response, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Swiss authorities assuring them that the PPC would stay open.

Muhammad al-Madani, Abbas’s liaison with Israeli society, denied last week that the coalition was closed by presidential decree, insisting that it only lost its government involvement.

Critics of Abbas, however, cite his tendency to shut down civil society organizations associated with his political rivals. In June, Abbas closed “Palestine Tomorrow for Social Development,” an NGO established by former prime minister Salam Fayyad. He had previously cracked down on groups tied to former Fatah Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan, an outspoken critic of Abbas.

Conceived by a group including former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and kept secret for two years while in the making, the Geneva Initiative, presented in 2003, proposes a two-state solution including an Israeli annexation of the larger settlement blocs in a land swap with the future Palestinian state. Under the terms of the initiative, Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would be recognized as the capital of Israel and Arab areas as the capital of Palestine.

The Palestinian Peace Coalition is funded by the European Union and various countries including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.

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