Will the UN report finish Abbas?

Palestinians demonstrate against Mr Abbas for failing to  refer the Goldstone Report to the UN Security Council

Palestinians demonstrate against Mr Abbas for failing to refer the Goldstone Report to the UN Security Council

Internal fallout from the Goldstone Report on the fighting in Gaza is now threatening to bring down the Palestinian Authority leadership.

A commission of inquiry has been set up in Ramallah to investigate why the Palestinians dropped their demand to refer the report to the United Nations Security Council.

The report, written by a team headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, alleged that Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in January.

It was debated last week at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which had commissioned the report. Before the debate, the Palestinian Authority had demanded that it be referred to the Security Council, a necessary step before the report could be considered by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

President Abbas has been denounced as a traitor to the Palestinian cause

The United States and Israel applied considerable pressure on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to rescind the demand, and it was eventually dropped.

Mr Abbas’s decision has since attracted fierce criticism from within the PA, from his political rivals and from some Arab governments.

One Palestinian minister resigned in protest over the decision and Syria announced that it was postponing a visit to Damascus by Mr Abbas, who has been attacked as a traitor to the Palestinian cause in Arab newspapers.

The move has also jeopardised the talks between the rival Palestinian movements, Fatah and Hamas, on a power-sharing agreement, which was expected to be signed sometime this month.

The Palestinian Authority has been forced to set up a special commission that will investigate the decision-making process leading up to the UNHRC debate.

The commission is to deliver its findings in a week and sources in the PA believe that they could spell the end of Mr Abbas’s rule.

Mr Abbas has tried to extricate himself from the political storm, first by insisting that as Palestine is not a member-state of the UN, it was the Arab states bloc that had rescinded the demand.

Later, sources close to him claimed that he had been misled by his advisers, who said that there was insufficient support on the UNHRC for a referral to the Security Council, and that those advisers will be now fired.

This is the second time Mr Abbas has acquiesced to American pressure in recent weeks.

The first time was when he agreed to participate last month in a joint summit with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, despite no agreement having been reached on a settlements freeze.

The US administration pressured the PA over the Goldstone Report following Mr Netanyahu’s insistence that moves against Israel resulting from the report would be fateful for the peace process.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration has weakened its pressure on Israel to freeze all settlement activity.

In return, Mr Netanyahu has also toned down his rhetoric and even cancelled a plan last week to make a visit to a Jewish archaeological site in East Jerusalem.

    Last updated: 3:39pm, October 14 2009