Abbas in fight to maintain position of power in Palestinian Authority


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s resignation from his post as president of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee has fuelled speculation that he may be planning to step down from his position as president of the Palestinian Authority as well.

Palestinian sources have been warning for months that if the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians remains, Mr Abbas would resign and effectively disband the PA, leaving Israel with full responsibility for the West Bank.

The news last weekend that he was resigning from the PLO’s Executive Committee along with about half of its veteran leadership seemed to give credence to these warnings.

However, on Sunday, in a meeting with European journalists, Mr Abbas seemed to deny the rumours. He said: “If I didn’t have hope, you wouldn’t be seeing me in this place.” He also announced he would be visiting Iran soon — “a neighbouring country, a sister-nation, with which he have not had good relations”.

The Iranians have yet to confirm the plan and no date has been announced but, if the visit does take place, it will be a shot across the bows of Hamas, whose relationship with their former Iranian benefactors has been rocky of late.

Hamas’s military leadership is rebuilding its ties with Iran, including sending members there for training. However, its political chiefs have tried to deepen their links to Iran’s main rival, Saudi Arabia, and are engaged in unofficial and non-direct talks with Israel in an attempt to find a long-term solution for Gaza. Mr Abbas feels marginalised by these moves and a trip to Iran could be an attempt to pressure Hamas into not to reaching a deal with Israel.

On Sunday, Mr Abbas explained that he resigned from the PLO Executive Committee to “bring fresh blood” to the organisation, but it could equally have been an attempt to subdue calls for a presidential election.

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