Here we go once more into the financial doldrums and the Abbas dance of blame the rest of the Palestinian Authority leadership, blame Israel, blame Arab nations for not meeting their promised obligations and blame the world for not supporting the Palestinian cause with sufficient amounts of support, measured in dollars, Euros, precious metals or other forms of monetary equivalents. As has been the case since the fateful election where United States President Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice forced the inclusion of Hamas in the imminent elections for the Palestinian Parliament, Abbas has claimed he has been forced to act as a man under siege against the fates of the world. As a quick refresher, Hamas won a clear majority in the Palestinian Parliament which caused Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the upcoming Palestinian Presidential election as he faced losing to the Hamas candidate. Soon after this Hamas executed a takeover of Gaza ejecting all the members of Fatah and splitting the Palestinian government into two separate and independent entities which continue to struggle for preeminence. Since then Mahmoud Abbas has become the equivalent of Palestinian President for life as he has consistently refused to allow new elections for his position. All of the past is now once again foaming to the top and displaying the grotesque underbelly of the Palestinian governance which he represents more than anyone else. So, what are the coming events and how exactly will Mahmoud Abbas once again remain President when all else around him changes.
The initiation of the problem was a familiar one, the Palestinian Authority was out of cash and unable to meet payroll of their enormously over-bloated government which employs over half of the residents under Palestinian rule. The payroll includes both employees in the West Bank and in Gaza. When the Palestinian employees threatened to strike if they did not receive their back pay, Mahmoud Abbas made a pitiable plea to the world to honor their pledges or renew new guarantees of monetary aid to the Palestinian cause and to also save Abbas and his government. Israel gave in to pressures from various fronts and released a large amount of the collected taxes they were withholding from the Palestinians as a response to the Palestinians going around Israel and petitioning the United Nations for statehood which was a break against the agreements in the Oslo Accords which specifically forbids any path outside of direct negotiations. The United States also responded with a half billion dollars which was sent by the Obama Administration circumventing Congress which had frozen all funding for the Palestinian Authority also in response to their petition for statehood at the United Nations. The President was able to authorize the aid bypassing Congress utilizing emergency measures which enabled bypassing Congress. This was still insufficient funds to alleviate the monetary predicament the Palestinian Authority finds themselves in once again. This is the predicament which Mahmoud Abbas is facing which he will once again find some way of casting all of the blame onto others and the first leaves have already started to fall from the government tree and more are sure to follow soon.
The first leaf that fell came as Nabil Qassis quit as Finance Minister responding to refutation to proposed austerity measures he had proposed to address financial situation. Nabil Qassis is a former president of the Bir Zeit University near Ramallah who joined the government in May 2012, who gave notice while President Abbas was out of the territories on March 2 that he was resigning. When members of the Parliament began to protest the financial situation and as a reaction to the resignation of Nabil Qassis, President Abbas responded upon his returning to Ramallah saying, “I am angrier than all of you at the government… but I don’t want to say more than that now. Just wait for three days.” It was further reported by an unnamed government official that, “Abbas informed (Salam) Fayyad that if Nabil Qassis did not return to the finance ministry… Abbas would dismiss his government and form a new one.” So, here we are on the verge of yet once again President Mahmoud Abbas placing all the blame upon everybody but himself and holding another round of elections while refusing to stand for election himself. The Palestinian authority seems to lurch from one catastrophe to the next with the solution always being either the Prime Minister or other high office holders resigning or being forced from office or the Parliament being disbanded and new elections held but one thing remains unchanged, President Mahmoud Abbas remains the sole survivor who never need face the people and receive their support to remain as President of the Palestinian Authority.
This is not the sole situation for which President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be more of a dictatorial President for Life than the rightfully elected leader the Palestinian people. The repeated attempts at managing a reunification of the two sectors of the Palestinian leadership bringing Hamas and Fatah together again in unified governance for the Palestinian Authority and its peoples which has been another example of Abbas intransigence. Every attempt at reunification has appeared to have reached an accord with all of the particulars smoothed out and the only remaining item being a general election for a new Parliament, the choosing of a new Prime Minister, and holding election for the office of President. That final little item, the election for President, has been the tripping point each and every time as Mahmoud Abbas refuses to stand for election. He is convinced that he would not have a prayers chance in…, well; he would have no chance of surviving the election and retaining the office of the President. This has caused the agreements to suddenly collapse and disintegrate as soon as the time comes for picking the date for the elections, especially and precisely the elections for the next President. Mahmoud Abbas is for too enamored with being the President of the Palestinian Authority and consistently refuses to risk being voted out of office. Perhaps his fears are completely founded. Perhaps his fears go beyond that of losing the office and are more about losing something far more dear and important to him; his life. It is his fear of death that I believe drives him to avoid having new elections for the office of President of the Palestinian Authority. The problem is that Mahmoud Abbas’s fear for his life will very likely forestall any progression for Palestinian governance until he finally accepts leaving the Presidency which will likely take the exact same path as his predecessor.
Beyond the Cusp