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Abbas’ declaration that he was ‘suspending all agreements’ with Israel met with collective eye-roll from Palestinians

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a sweeping declaration on Thursday, announcing that he was “suspending all agreements” with Israel, effective Friday.

“We announce the leadership’s decision to stop implementing the agreements signed with the Israeli side,” Abbas said, following an emergency meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abbas’ decision was made in the wake of Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in PA-administered areas of the East Jerusalem town of Sur Bahir. The unprecedented nature of the demolitions sparked international controversy and backlash.

“We will not succumb to the dictates and the imposing of a fait accompli on the ground with brute force, specifically in Jerusalem,” he said, calling the demolitions a war crime and act of ethnic cleansing.

He went on to make a series of statements, including a rejection of American-led peace talks, and a call for renewing failed attempts at reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

As for the cessation of agreements with Israel, Abbas said that his leadership would “start laying out mechanisms” to implement his decision, starting on Friday.

“In light of the insistence of the occupation authority on the denial of all the signed agreements and their obligations, we declare the decision of the leadership to stop working by the agreements signed with the Israeli side,” he said.

Abbas said his decision would be effective Friday, but many Palestinians and critics of the PA aren’t holding their breath.

“His statements made headlines, but that’s all they are, headlines,” Ramallah-based lawyer and political analyst and Dianna Buttu told Mondoweiss.

A former advisor to Abbas in his capacity as PLO Chairman, Buttu described the president’s words as “meaningless.” And she wasn’t alone.

Palestinians took to social media to express their skepticism over Abbas’ statements, which they say he’s made countless times before, but never followed through.

“It’s that time of the year when Mahmoud Abbas says no more agreements with Israel. The result is always the same, security coordination, business deals, collaboration on the siege of #Gaza continues. But it makes a nice headline. #Palestine,” Palestinian-American writer and political commentator Mariam Barghouti tweeted.

“Mariam was exactly right,” Buttu told Mondoweiss. “Abbas is all talk.”

Vague, tired, and empty threats

One of the major reason Palestinian activists and scholars are essentially rolling their eyes at Abbas’ grand claims on Thursday, analysts told Mondoweiss, is due to the vague and far-reaching nature of his statements.

Abbas said he would be “suspending all agreements,” but most people were left wondering: what does that actually mean?

“First of all, annulling all agreements with Israel is not possible,” Dr. Yara Hawari, a Palestinian academic and fellow at Al-Shabaka, told Mondoweiss.

Secondly, she noted, Abbas wasn’t at all clear about what agreements he was talking about.

“Was he talking about Oslo? About cancelling security coordination with Israel, the Paris protocols? Abbas has no interest in doing that,” Hawari said, calling his statements “ridiculous.”

Hawari said she didn’t believe that “anyone took his statements too seriously,” highlighting the irony of the fact that if he was really going to suspend or cancel all agreements with Israel, he would also be advocating for his own demise.

“If they annul all the agreements, what does that mean for the PA itself? The PA was established under the Oslo Accords. So if we were to take it to its full truths, that would mean the dismantlement of the PA.”

Both Hawari and Buttu agreed that Abbas “had to do something” in the wake of the Sur Bahir demolitions, as it was a clear violation of the PA’s “authority.”

But his way of “doing something,” they say, is just a repetition of his “same old” empty threats.

“By saying he’s going to suspend all agreements, does he really mean that?” Buttu asked, highlighting the fact that most of the agreements between the two parties are within the framework of Israel “giving” benefits to the PA.

“Things like water allocation, things like PA-designated control in Areas A and B, things like the issuance of passports. These are all things that the occupier are currently ‘gives’ to the occupied. Is he willing to sacrifice those things? I don’t think so,” Buttu said.

One of the few things that the PA “gives” to Israel and can leverage, she said, is its security coordination with Israeli authorities.

“If Abu Mazen is saying that he’s going to cut off security collaboration, the question I’m left with, is are you serious about it?,” Buttu asked. “In all the times he’s talked about it before, he’s actually never affected it.”

At the end of the day, no matter how many scathing statements or threats come out of Abbas’ mouth, the same problem remains.

“He’s never clear,” Buttu said. “All he’s ever said is that he’s going to suspend the agreements, but he never lays out what the next steps are going to be. His statements need to be followed by actions, and he never does that.”

‘If you want to kill something, form a committee’

Abbas’ idea of the “next step” in the suspension process, as he said in his speech on Thursday, was, to form a committee to discuss possible plans of action.

“We declare the decision of the leadership to stop working by the agreements signed with the Israeli side and start laying out mechanisms – starting tomorrow – to establish a committee to implement this in accordance with the decisions of the Palestinian Central Council,” he said at the conclusion of his speech.

Palestinian activist and Director of the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights Nidal al-Azza told Mondoweiss that Abbas’ idea to form a committee was one of the biggest red flags, and tell-tale signs that he doesn’t intend on taking real action to support his statements.

In addition to not specifying which agreements he intended to suspend, the actual implementation of Abbas’ ambiguous decision, al-Azza said, is contingent upon “this unknown committee.”

“[The committee] has no time frame and no specific mandate,” al-Azza noted. “We do not know if such a committee has an obligatory power or just the power to recommend to the Palestinian leadership.”

Both Hawari and Buttu laughed at the fact that Abbas’ first plan of action was to form a committee.

“How long is that implementations committee supposed to take?” Hawari asked. “Abbas has formed a lot of committees that were supposed to accomplish a lot of things. It doesnt have any real meaning.”

Referencing a common saying in Arabic, Buttu told Mondoweiss “If you want to kill an issue, form a committee.”

“That’s what he’s doing. He wants to show outrage without taking any concrete action,” she said.

“Instead of saying ‘Oslo is over’ and trying to find another way to remove this yoke around our necks, instead of signing onto BDS, trying to disentangle the Palestinian economy from Israel’s, really pushing for accountability,” Buttu said, “Abbas chose to form a committee.”

“It’s all petty tactics in the same game.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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6 Responses

  1. Sibiriak on July 26, 2019, 9:45 pm

    Thanks Yumna for the excellent reporting!

  2. DaBakr on July 27, 2019, 1:27 am

    A collective eye roll from everybody involved. Good report.

    • Misterioso on July 27, 2019, 9:58 am

      @DaBakr

      Ah, yes, once again, you revel in the illegal, brutal dispossession and immense suffering of indigenous Palestinian Arabs forced to live under the vicious boot of their racist Zionist occupiers. I am reminded of the old adage – “What goes around, comes around.”

      ttps://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-israel-s-right-wing-is-worse-than-europe-s-1.7540538?utm_term=20190719-03%3A08&utm_campaign=Zeev+Sternhell&utm_medium=email&writerAlerts=true&utm_content=www.haaretz.com%2Fopinion%2F.premium–1.7540538&utm_source=smartfocus

      Opinion “Israel’s Right Wing Is Worse Than Europe’s” by Zeev Sternhell, Haaretz, July 19/19

      “From the end of the 19th century, radical, anti-liberal nationalism – after serving as a basis for fascism throughout Europe and Nazism in Germany, and despite calling itself an ideology of national unity – essentially became an ideology of civil war. Hostility toward different categories of citizens, not just ethnic minorities but ideological adversaries, became a primary tool of nationalists. So it was in the past and so it is today in countries where vicious nationalism rules: From ostensibly democratic India, which abuses its minorities, to Poland and Hungary, to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, which is consciously moving toward becoming an apartheid state.

      “In truth, the Israeli right, which maintains the settlements with their racist, backward rabbis, is much worse that the European nationalist right, which is wary of displaying open racism and anti-Semitism, lest it be accused of fostering an ideology akin to Nazism. Here we have no such problem because hey, we’re all Jews, and who would dare accuse a Jew of approximating the kind of Nazi ideology that preceded World War II? Therefore we get an education minister who is ignorant, not just on sexual matters but also of history, feeling no qualms about calling for the annexation of millions of Arabs while cynically denying them of political rights.

      “In all Europe, the pre-fascist and pre-Nazi nationalists were united in their hatred of human rights and enlightened principles, of socialists, intellectuals, pluralism and democratic government based on a division of authority. The Polish government and the Netanyahu government are similar not only because both foster hatred among their citizens as a tool of governing, but because they are both promoting a historical fabrication industry on a colossal scale.

      “It is thus highly significant that radical nationalism, which fueled Europe’s disaster in the 20th century, developed not only in Germany in the form of revolutionary conservatism but also in the France of the human rights revolution of 1789. The Jews were its greatest victims but not its only victims. Anti-Semitism was not an accident that happened to European history, nor did fascism and Nazism suddenly land from outer space.

      “The craft of lying and fabrication is an accepted operating method by radical nationalists for inventing a narrative that meets the needs of nationalist politics. Anything goes for the sake of establishing this narrative – from censoring archives, as is the case here, to unprecedented legislation that distorts history, as in Poland (and supported by Israel). Even if everyone knows that atrocities occurred in the War of Independence, the Haaretz investigative report showed us that the Israeli government, like the Polish government, is not only working to conceal facts, but also to ensure that today’s governmental fabrication becomes tomorrow’s truth. Following in the ways of the Poles is a triple betrayal: of the Holocaust’s legacy, of the fight against anti-Semitism and of historical truth.

      “Just as the Poles define anti-Semitism to suit the needs of their national narrative – to their thinking, the nationalist underground that refused to help Jews was not in the least anti-Semitic – so, too, the Israeli right has invented its own definition: Any criticism of Israel; of the occupation; of the call to annex millions of people in total disregard of their desires, their identity and their rights; and of the Bible as the basis for our claim to the territory – is anti-Semitic. The same goes, of course, for a boycott of the settlements and their products, of West Bank tourism and its ‘university’: Likening such a legitimate political act with anti-Semitism is just another fabrication of Jewish history for the sake of Israeli nationalist politics.”
      _____________________________________________________________________________

      Zeev Sternhell is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world’s leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and writes for Haaretz newspaper.

    • DaBakr on July 27, 2019, 2:06 pm

      @m

      Oy. I can’t get through three sentences of your posts without a huge eye roll. But, as to the first thought, I am reveling in nothing. You also might want to actually VISIT the west bank beyond the the Palestinian hasbara photo op points. There is an extremely wealthy suburb of ramallah that rivals anything in Israel. There are mansions all over the west bank. The Arabs certainly don’t like or want Israeli occupation but you’ll find they have even less desire to be ruled by the PA PLO and g-d forbid the Hamas. Negotiate or Stand still and wait.

  3. Ossinev on July 27, 2019, 2:24 pm

    Haven`t seen any comments on this grotesque and blatant ethnic cleansing from Saab (hand back the keys) Erekat . Or what about Hanan(same old same old) Ashrawi ?

    Only one tool left in the locker = dissolution of PA and campaign for full equal rights for all citizens in all of Israel/Palestine.

    The Zios have been sticking two fingers up to Abbas and the various Erekats/Ashrawis for years knowing that they will never grasp the nettle. It`s up to the younger Palestinians to take over and chuck out the Vichy cabal once and for all.

    Tick tick.

  4. brent on July 27, 2019, 4:06 pm

    It is kind of sad. Abbas doesn’t know what to do so he carelessly runs off at the mouth. Along the line of his rebuke of the great ego and cutting US relations last year. No other leader has lost their cool like that. Note where it got him. That was/is not only a problem for Trump’s stated interest in the great deal of the century but also Palestinians and most readers of Mondoweiss who promote peaceful co-existence.

    It’s unfortunate that Buttu and Hawari didn’t seem to have much counsel to offer.

    I’d say Ossninev nailed it, there is “only one tool left = dissolve the PA and campaign for full equal rights for all citizens in all of Israel/Palestine”. That empowers Jews to take responsibility for their extremists and peace activists to make headway with their Members of Congress.

    DaBakr’s counsel, “negotiate or standstill” seems sound. Enough of the foolishness already.

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