U.S. Ally Mahmoud Abbas in Serious Trouble

Palestinian President is losing support at home, accused of treachery.

October 6, 2009, 6:33 AM

JERUSALEM, Oct. 6, 2009— -- President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority is in dire political trouble.

The U.S. ally is being accused by Palestinians of colluding with Israel and the United States in sidelining the controversial Goldstone report on Israel's military operation in Gaza.

The U.N.-sponsored report attracted widespread coverage last month with its stark allegations that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes. Israel launched a concerted campaign to discredit the report. Most Palestinians saw it as a valuable diplomatic weapon with which to pressure Israel.

But, in Geneva Friday, Abbas, under pressure from the United States and Israel, agreed to defer a U.N. Human Rights Council vote on the report until next March, effectively burying it.

The story has outraged Palestinians across the political spectrum. Abbas is being accused of treachery. Even his moderate Fatah colleagues have publicly expressed their dismay.

There were demonstrations Monday in Ramallah, where protestors called for his resignation: "Listen Abbas, our people's blood is not spilled in vain."

One banner read, "Ignoring the Goldstone report is ignoring the blood of the martyrs."

He has never been popular and the accusation of collaboration with Israel has never been far from the surface. His standing is now at a critical low.

Hamas on the Attack

Hamas has been making hay of the situation. Hamas' Mahmoud Zahar Monday called Abbas and his advisers traitors. "We don't consider them Palestinians or representatives of the Palestinian people," he said.

On the same day the report was released Sept. 15, Hamas celebrated the release of 20 female prisoners in exchange for the video of captain Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Syria Monday postponed Abbas' planned visit to Damascus in protest.

Abbas remains out of the country: Amman Monday, Yemen today, Rome later this week. Some have urged him to come back and face the music.

George Mitchell, the Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle east, is scheduled to arrive in the region Thursday to continue U.S. efforts to kick-start the peace process.

The row over the report is even threatening plans for Hamas and Fatah to make peace and sign a reconciliation document in Cairo later this month. The Egyptians announced the two factions would sign the deal Oct. 26 but Hamas leaders hinted that the agreement is now in jeopardy.

The Islamic movement's prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, blasted Abbas at a news conference in Gaza Monday. "I ask how the different parties can sit at the same table, given this situation," he said.

"How can the proper environment be created given this unprecedented renunciation, this sacrifice of the martyr's blood and our people's rights."

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