Palestinians were apparently unmoved by an Israeli report that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a KGB agent 30 years ago, with officials in Ramallah laughing off the claim while other Palestinian groups remained mostly mum on the allegation.
On Wednesday night Israel’s Channel 1 television reported Abbas was a Soviet spy in Damascus during the 1980s, citing information it said was included in an archive smuggled out of the USSR.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Thursday called the report a smear campaign and said it “falls under the framework of Israeli absurdities which we have gotten used to.”
“It is clear Israel is troubled by the (Palestinians’) strategic relationship with Russia and by the clear and announced Russian position, which is to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis on an independent Palestinian state and the right of self-determination for our people,” Abu Rudeineh said.
The report came as Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to organize a face-to-face meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an effort brokered by Russian diplomat Mikhail Bogdanov, who served in Syria when Abbas was allegedly a spy there.
In an interview with Israel Radio Wednesday night, senior Fatah members Jibril Rajoub, Hussein al-Sheikh, Saeb Erekat and Nabil Shaath can be heard laughing as the reporter, Gal Berger, introduces the allegations against Abbas.
Rajoub said the report “isn’t even worth talking about” and added it was likely made by someone trying “to weaken” Abbas.
Erekat cackled and also called the allegation part of a “smear campaign” against Abbas, linking it to mutual recriminations from Netanyahu and Abbas this week who each said the other was unwilling to have a face-to-face meeting in Moscow.
“That’s very very low, really shameful,” Erekat added.
Al-Sheikh said the report was “part of a war against” Abbas and added he was certain the allegation was false and Shaath called the report “utterly ridiculous.”
Hamas, a rival to Abbas’s Fatah party, did not issue any official statement on the claims.
The terror group’s Al Aqsa Voice radio station published a small article on its website, but added no reactions to the report. Hamas did not run the report on the website of Al Aqsa TV, its official TV station.
The two left-wing Palestinian factions with former ties to the Soviet empire — the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of the Palestine — also did not issue any formal responses to the Channel 1 report.
According to Channel 1 foreign news editor Oren Nahari, the famed Mitrokhin archive kept by KGB defector Vasily Mitrokhin revealed that Abbas was a Soviet mole in Damascus in 1983.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Abbas studied at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, where he wrote his doctoral thesis, “The Secret Relationship between German Nazis and Zionists,” which has been accused of denying the scope of the Holocaust.
After earning his doctorate, Abbas, who spent much of his early life in Damascus, moved to Tunisia where he took a more active role in PLO leadership, and worked his way up to chairman of the organization. He became PA president following Arafat’s death in 2004.
The documents purportedly showing his role in the KGB were obtained by Israeli researchers Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez.
AFP contributed to this report