Burning all bridges, Abbas sets himself up for complete isolation
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AnalysisAbbas believes US, Israel, Egypt, Hamas plotting against him

Burning all bridges, Abbas sets himself up for complete isolation

PA chief thinks Palestinians have nothing to lose in confrontation with a US administration that, he feels, has endorsed Israel's positions. But it's not only the US he's taking on

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

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a press conference with the French president, following a  meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Francois Mori)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a press conference with the French president, following a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on December 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Francois Mori)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is once again shooting in all directions. Earlier this year, he described Israel as a “colonial project” unrelated to Judaism. Now he has determined that the Palestinians have other enemies to deal with: everyone else, almost.

In a speech before Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Monday night, Abbas set himself — and his people — on a collision course with both the US and Hamas.

In addition, the address contained implicit criticism of Egypt for its role in brokering the failing “reconciliation” agreement between his ruling Fatah faction and Hamas in October 2017.

Abbas’s decision to burn all bridges with these three parties reflects his increased sense of isolation and frustration.

The Palestinian leader, according to some of his aides, has been in a state of “deep desperation” in recent weeks.

Some say this could be connected to unconfirmed reports about his deteriorating health. Others argue that Abbas’s frustration and fury are a direct result of the US administration’s “hostile” policies toward the Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sits in front of a picture of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 19, 2018. (FLASH90)

Abbas is also said to be outraged and concerned about reports that the US administration has been searching for “alternative” Palestinian officials who would accept President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced peace plan.

Even worse, Abbas feels that some of the Arab countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are in collusion with the Trump administration to “impose” the peace plan on the Palestinians. Abbas feels that his Arab brothers have abandoned him, a senior Fatah official told The Times of Israel.

Abbas was well aware that lashing out in public at US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, whom he called a “son of a dog,” would draw a strong response from the Trump administration. He also knows that the Palestinians could pay a heavy price for such an unprecedented insult against a top US representative. (“Son of a dog” is a pejorative in Arabic, open to multiple interpretations. It is seen by some as analogous to “son of a bitch,” by others as relatively mild, and but by still others as more serious given the reference to an animal.)

American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attends a meeting of the lobby for Israel–United States relations at the Knesset, July 25, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But Abbas feels that the Palestinians’ relations with the US have sunken so low that it’s impossible to undo the damage. He feels the Palestinians no longer have anything to lose by engaging in a direct confrontation with a US administration that, Abbas believes, has endorsed almost all the positions of the Israeli government.

The fury with the US, however, is not only directed against the Trump administration.

Abbas believes the US “conspiracy” against the Palestinians and Arabs began long before Trump entered the White House. According to the PA president, the Americans facilitated the Hamas “coup” against the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip in 2007 and even orchestrated the 2010 Arab Spring across the Middle East.

In other words, Abbas sees the US as being in cahoots with Islamists operating against moderate, secular Palestinians and other Arabs.

He also seems determined to foil Trump’s peace plan, when and if it’s made public. The plan, according to Abbas, has one main goal: “to destroy the Palestinian national project.” But the Palestinians, Abbas vowed, will not allow the Trump plan to pass.

Lashing out further, Abbas on Monday took the Americans and Egyptians to task for “inventing” the “reconciliation” deal between Fatah and Hamas.

He pointed out that the Egyptians had failed in their mission to end the dispute between the two rival parties in the past decade. “We thank Egypt for its effort,” he said. “But for me, what counts is the outcome. And what is the outcome? Zero.”

Hamas’s new deputy leader Salah al-Arouri (seated, left) and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad (seated, right) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements work to end their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

By denouncing Hamas and threatening new sanctions on the Gaza Strip, Abbas has signed the death certificate of the Egyptian-engineered agreement. This is a severe blow not only to Hamas, but also to the Egyptians, who until recently were still trying to prevent a total collapse of the deal they worked so hard to achieve.

Ultimately, the US, Abbas argued, wants to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank “so that there won’t be a unified Palestinian state. This is what we should know and this is what we have to admit. This is the truth.”

It now remains to be seen what measures Abbas intends to take against Hamas, which he holds responsible for last week’s apparent assassination attempt on PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj. Abbas did not specify the nature of the sanctions he’s planning to impose on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. However, he did threaten that “shoes will hit the heads of the most senior and most junior” Hamas leaders.

After having burned all bridges with Israel, Abbas has now added the US and Hamas to the Palestinians’ list of enemies. His harsh and unprecedented rhetoric may be interpreted by some Palestinians as a “green light” for a new uprising.

This article was updated to elaborate on the definition of “son of a dog.”

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