A Tiger’s Tail
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Palestinian lawyers took to the streets in Ramallah in the Israel-occupied territories of the West Bank recently to protest against the rule of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.
As Agence France-Presse explained, the Oslo Peace Accords established the Palestinian Legislative Council, a kind of parliament, in the early 1990s. But members haven’t met since 2007, and Abbas has been ruling without a legislature since then. The lawyers view the situation as undercutting Palestinian rights and freedoms.
The lack of democracy and accountability comes as Palestine faces other grave challenges.
In 2006, a year after Abbas was elected president of the PA, the political arm of Hamas – a group the US labels as a terrorist organization – defeated his Fatah political party in the Gaza Strip. As a result, Palestine is now split between the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority that runs the West Bank, and Hamas-led Gaza, leading to an impasse.
Meanwhile, Abbas is trying to work with Israel, a neighbor that clearly exerts enormous influence on the non-sovereign nation.
At the end of July Israel cut $176 million in aid to the PA(, for example, because Israeli officials determined that PA officials were giving that amount to Palestinian individuals convicted of terrorism and their families, Haaretz reported. As Reuters outlined, under the Oslo Accords, Israel collects import taxes on goods that enter Palestine and then passes that money to the PA.
Abbas appears to be dealing with this tricky situation by suppressing civil liberties.
Authorities in the West Bank have been rounding up scores of Hamas sympathizers, political dissidents, journalists and anyone else who might question Abbas’ administration, Al Jazeera wrote. Detainees experience “maltreatment and torture,” activists say. The United Nations Committee Against Torture recently corroborated their allegations, according to Middle East Eye. The West Bank has become an autocracy, the Washington Post wrote.
Now, Abbas is 87 years old and reportedly suffering from health problems, the Times of Israel noted. Who might replace him and how they might address the region’s many problems are becoming pressing questions in Palestinian society. Calls for a presidential election are mounting, as this i24 News op-ed described, citing a local poll that showed that more than three-quarters of Palestinians in the West Bank want Abbas to resign and a massive 86 percent consider him corrupt.
Meanwhile, following 15 years of no elections in Palestine, Abbas finally allowed municipal elections to take place between last December and this March, polls that also included districts in Gaza. Speculation was that he had decided against slating ballots because he feared that Hamas, whose leaders advocate for more aggressive resistance to the Israeli occupation, would win in a landslide, added Voice of America. In those elections the most seats were won by independent candidates from neither side of the divide, Al-Monitor added.
Abbas has a tiger by the tail. And his hold is slipping.