Amid health scare, Abbas vows not to end his life as a ‘traitor’

PA leader says he will not cave to US pressure; Fatah council calls for stepping up ‘popular resistance’ by boycotting Israeli goods

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas attends a meeting with the Revolutionary Council of the ruling Fatah party on March 1, 2018, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas attends a meeting with the Revolutionary Council of the ruling Fatah party on March 1, 2018, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told members of his ruling Fatah party last week that he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor.”

Abbas’s remark was aimed at expressing his strong opposition to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Abbas was speaking at the launch of the Fatah Revolutionary Council congress in Ramallah on Thursday night. The council, which has over 100 members, serves as Fatah’s “parliament.”

At Abbas’s request, the PA television and radio stations did not carry live broadcasts of his speech, as has been the case in most of his previous speeches to various Palestinian forums.

No official reason was given as to why the 82-year-old Abbas made the unusual request, which came amid a wave of speculation regarding his health.

Last month, Abbas underwent what his aides called “routine checkups” in a US hospital. Although the aides said the results of the checkups were “positive and reassuring,” unconfirmed reports in Palestinian and Arab media outlets insist that Abbas’s condition has suffered a “major setback” in recent weeks.

Excerpts from Abbas’s address to the Fatah council were published in a number of Arab media outlets, including the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai.

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017, in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

Two Fatah officials who attended the conference said that the quotes attributed to Abbas were “accurate.”

It was not the first time that Abbas was quoted as saying he would not end his life as a “traitor” by signing any agreement with Israel that does not meet Palestinian aspirations and demands.

Abbas was quoted as having told the Fatah officials in Ramallah that this could be his “last session” with them. “No one can guarantee his life,” Abbas reportedly said, in an apparent reference to his health.

Referring to Trump’s purported plan, Abbas said, “I have said in the past — and afterward — that I will not end my life as a traitor. [The US] can announce the deal whenever and wherever they want, but nothing will happen against our will.”

Trump has referred to his peace plan, the details of which have yet to be made public, as the “deal of the century.”

Abbas said that the Palestinians would accept nothing less than a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the pre-1967 lines. “No one in the whole world would be able to impose on us something that we don’t want,” he was quoted as saying.

Abbas also talked in his speech about the ongoing dispute between Fatah and the terrorist Hamas group and denied allegations that he was responsible for the “humanitarian crisis” in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“We’re not the ones who are besieging the Gaza Strip and killing its people,” he added. “I want a country of laws and a government that enforces the law. I don’t want gangs and thugs and thefts and weapons in the hands of everyone.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) speaks at the United Nations Security Council, on February 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

Abbas told the Fatah officials that he was no longer sure whether Hamas “wants reconciliation or wants Iran,” its chief sponsor. It was also unclear, he said, whether Hamas “wants reconciliation or wants the PA to function as an ATM machine.”

Meanwhile, the Fatah Revolutionary Council called on Palestinians to step up “popular resistance” against Israel and expressed support for Abbas’s proposal to convene an international conference for peace in the Middle East.

The appeal was issued at the end of the council’s three-day congress, which was launched in Ramallah on Thursday. The conference was held under the banner “Jerusalem: The Eternal Capital of Palestine.”

The council discussed the latest developments in the Palestinian arena in the wake of Trump’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his threats to cut US funding to the PA and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

“Trump’s announcement concerning Jerusalem does not create any new legal reality,” the council said in a statement. “Occupied Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of our state.”

The Fatah leaders voiced support for Abbas’s recent call for replacing US mediation between the Palestinians and Israel with a “multilateral mechanism” consisting of several countries.

In a speech before the UN Security Council on February 20, Abbas called for the convening of an international conference by mid-2018, based on international law and the relevant UN resolutions.

Abbas and the PA argue that the US is no longer qualified to play the role of honest broker in any peace process because of the Trump administration’s “bias” in favor of Israel.

The Fatah council called on Palestinians to “escalate the popular resistance, in all areas, against the occupiers and their settlers.”

It also called on the PA to enact new laws banning Palestinians from working in settlements and requiring them to boycott settler products and Israeli goods.

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