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The many hats of Abbas

By David Singer - posted Monday, 9 May 2011

The Palestinian Authority (PA) announcement abdicating to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) the conduct of any future political negotiations with Israel - effectively sinks any further hope of direct negotiations being resumed with Israel over the future sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza.

The PA has consigned itself - and 17 years of on and off negotiations - to the scrapheap of history. It joins previously failed negotiators and negotiations attempting to achieve a peaceful resolution of the 130 years conflict between Jews and Arabs in the former Palestine.

This latest demise was made abundantly clear by PA President Mahmoud Abbas - who told the Palestinian News and Information Agency (WAFA) that political negotiations will become the responsibility of the PLO and not of any unity government that Fatah and Hamas might form as a result of their decision to effect a reconciliation after three years of bitter internecine conflict.


Abbas has sought to limit the tasks of any such newly formed government to concentrate on rebuilding Gaza and prepare for national elections in 2012 - although it is most unlikely that Hamas will ever agree with Abbas on these limited objectives.

Abbas has reportedly confirmed to Australia’s visiting Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd that the PLO is the party responsible for the political issues and therefore negotiations will be conducted by the PLO and not the Palestinian government.

This WAFA report- if accurate - is a stunning turnabout and abdication by the PA of its negotiating role with Israel in favour of the PLO. Israel would be reckless in pursuing its national interest if it were to countenance any such change of direction.

The difficulty inherent in dealing with the PLO was foreseen 17 years ago and led to the birth of a new entity - the PA - under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

The PLO was rejected as the appropriate party to negotiate with Israel - because of its virulent and hate-filled Charter. It was at that time one of many organisations claiming to represent the Palestinian Arabs. Its main constituent member was Fatah - but its rival Hamas had never been a member of the PLO.

The appointment of a new independent democratically elected body by the West Bank and Gazan Arabs – while right in theory - went horribly wrong in practice following Hamas‘s surprise win in the 2006 elections over Fatah.  The West Bank and Gaza split into two separately administered Hamas and PA fiefdoms - each vying for the allegiance of those not under the political control of the other - but with disastrous results for both populations over the last four years.


Now as a result of the promised reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas- Abbas finds himself terribly conflicted in four pivotal roles as: President of the PA, Chairman of the PLO, Chairman of Fatah and Putative head of a Fatah-Hamas government of reconciliation.

As President of the PA - Abbas is committed to concluding the “two state solution” accepted both by himself and his predecessor the late Yasser Arafat. Such a solution - in accordance with the American backed initiative proposed by former US President George Bush in his 2003 Roadmap- still remains unimplemented in any of its details - save for Israel‘s unilateral evacuation from Gaza in 2005.

As Chairman of the PLO - Abbas is obligated to observing the provisions of Article 20 of the PLO Covenant that states:

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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