Palestinian Authority President and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas has called for an “immediate cessation” of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. But Abbas, considered a moderate by most world leaders, stopped short of calling for an end to the hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel which triggered the current fighting.
Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh analyzes why.
The key reason Abbas is not willing to condemn the rocket attacks is because his own Fatah loyalists in the Gaza Strip are also participating in the fighting against Israel.
Fatah has several hundred militiamen in the Gaza Strip who belong to various armed groups. Some, in fact, are former members of the Palestinian Authority security forces, who continue to receive their salaries from the Palestinian government in Ramallah–funded by Western governments.
At least two Fatah armed groups announced that they had started firing rockets at the “settlements” of Ashkelon and Sderot, which are actually cities inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel. Another group claimed responsibility for launching 35 rockets at Israel since Sunday night.
The involvement of Fatah in the rocket attacks against Israel shows that the “reconciliation” pact with Hamas is much more than a political partnership. Hamas and Fatah militiamen are working together on the ground.
Even if Abbas were otherwise inclined to oppose the rocketing of Israel, he cannot afford to anger Hamas by issuing a condemnation of its rocket attacks. Such a condemnation would certainly lead to the collapse of the “reconciliation accord” that his Fatah faction signed with the Islamist movement last April.
A condemnation by Abbas would put him on a collision course not only with Hamas, but also with his own Fatah, as well as Islamic Jihad, and much of the population.
Abbas is fully aware that the Palestinian public would not accept such a condemnation, especially in the wake of increased tensions with Israel in the aftermath of the kidnapping and murder of the Jerusalem teenager, Mohamed Abu Khdeir.
Abbas is already facing a smear campaign waged by many Palestinians for condemning the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month. Photos depicting Abbas as a “Jewish rabbi” and “settler” have been circulating on social media over the past few weeks.
Several senior Fatah officials have also joined the anti-Abbas campaign, some openly calling for his removal from power for denouncing the murder of the three Israeli youths and saying he would pursue security coordination with Israel.
Abbas may also be concerned about drawing any attention to Fatah’s role in the fighting, fearing that if the world learns about the role of Fatah in the rocket attacks, the news will affect Western financial aid to his Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Fatah.
For all these reasons, we should not expect any forthcoming condemnation of the rocket attacks against Israel from “moderate” Abbas.