Palestinian Opinions Split After Abbas Interview With Israeli TV

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas chairs a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 4, 2016.

JERUSALEM — Recent comments by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas critical of Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis have caused controversy among journalists and factions in the Palestinian Liberation Organization other than Abbas’s own Fatah party.

In the interview with Israel’s Channel 2 aired March 31, Abbas referred to the stabbing attack in which Dafna Meir was murdered in side her home in front of her children.

“You would have to be crazy” to allow attacks like this to take place, Abbas said of the January 17 attack.”This is unacceptable, because this woman was a human being. It is not permissible to kill a human being under any circumstances. It is prohibited to spill human blood for any reason. I oppose this.”

In other parts of the interview Abbas said he is committed to continuing the security coordination between Israel and Palestinian security forces because the other option would be “chaos” and “a deadly intifada,” according to a translation of his comments by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Abbas told the TV station that in return he wanted that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grant the PA full security responsibility in area-A territories, as designated by the 1995 Oslo Accords, including a commitment by the Israel Defense Forces not to enter these parts of the West Bank. Abbas said he wanted also that Netanyahu reiterate his commitment to the two-state solution.

Netanyahu had last said he was committed to the idea in the Bar Ilan speech of June 2009 but since then made comments signaling that he no longer believed a two-state solution was possible in the near future.

Several Palestinian journalists wrote that Abbas went too far in his message of moderation, and added that when PA security forces were scouring Palestinian homes and confiscating knives, they were not providing Palestinians teens with an alternative method of fighting Israel.

A Palestinian delegation visited the home of Mounir Amar, a Druze officer who was killed in a light plane crash last month. Amar was appointed head of the IDF’s Civil Administration, an army body working with Palestinians in the West Bank. Journalists said the condolence visit indicated a “mistaken and confused” PA policy.

A senior official in Popular Front for the Liberation of the Palestine, Badran Jaber, said that Abbas had “turned his back on the supreme national interest and the interest of the Arab and Palestinian people.” Jaber said that negotiating with Israel and continuing security coordination had “proved to be a total failure”. The PFLP is one of the factions in the PLO government of the Palestinian Authority.

Jaber slammed the PA for failing to implement a Palestinian National Council’s decisions from March 2015 to terminate security coordination with Israel: “Our position is clear: we oppose this policy adopted by the PA in Ramallah, which completely alters the Palestinian consensus and what was agreed upon in [PLO] institutions, which is binding [for everyone].” Another PFLP official, Rabbah Muhanna, called on Abbas to step down following the interview because he had crossed red lines in violating the Palestinian Central Council decision to end security coordination.

Officials from Fatah’s main rival Hamas said Abbas’s comments “provided backing for the Zionist occupation to continue its crimes.”

Speaking to Hamas publication Filastin, senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan said Abbas’s comments were “saddening and condemnable.”

“The PA chairman takes pride in suppressing the intifada and in attempting to end it, and sanctifies the security coordination with Israel,” Radwan said.

“Instead of grieving over the death of criminal Zionists, [Abbas] should have channeled his emotions towards helping our people and presenting the war crimes of the occupation to the International [Criminal] Court in order to indict the occupation’s leaders,” he added.

Publications affiliated with Fatah defended Abbas’s remarks.

Columnist Muwaffaq Matar, also a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Committee, wrote in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: “The statements of President Mahmoud Abbas […] about childhood and about protecting the children of Palestine displeased [some people]. His firm position against involving children in the bloody struggle displeased them as well, because they can see their [own] essence only in [the children’s] spilled blood and can achieve prominence only by climbing a ladder made from their tender bones.”

Another member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Committee, Bakr Abu Bakr, also came out to defend Abbas and accused his critics of quoting him selectively.

“Those who are addicted to taking statements out of context or changing [them] … assume that the public does not read but only notices sensational headlines,” Abu Bakr said, according to MEMRI.

“Those who make false allegations never carefully read [in full Abbas’s] statements, which present the [security] coordination as a mutual affair, because their position on Abu Mazen is fixed in advance…”


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