Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed Palestinian sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hand in his resignation before the end of his term of office and prior to the Palestinian elections. The sources confirmed that Mahmoud Abbas intends to resign before the end of his presidential term if there have been no substantial developments [in the peace process]. The sources also revealed that Abbas has no wish to extend his presidential term, which is something that the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] discussed.
What Abbas means by substantial development in this case, is the US responding to his request and exerting pressure on Israel to cease its settlement building and resume negotiations from where these left off, which was discussing establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
Abbas announced that he does not wish to stand for re-election and he informed his advisers that he is resolute in his decision so long as negotiations [with Israel] are stalled, as there is nothing else that he can offer the Palestinian people.
Abbas believes that negotiations are the best strategic option to achieve the establishment of a Palestinian state, and he does not believe that this can be achieved through armed resistance. According to sources, Abbas refused a proposal made by Palestinian factions and commanders to reject the Road-map for Peace, in response to Israel’s failure to meet the Palestinian preconditions, especially a settlement freeze. Mahmoud Abbas justified this refusal by saying that he feared that this is an Israeli ruse to bring about the collapse of the Palestinian Authority [PA].
Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential term was originally scheduled to end on 24 January 2010, coinciding with the end of the current session of the [Palestinian] Legislative Council. However the [Palestinian] Central Elections Commission has announced that elections will not be held in January after Hamas prevented them from operating in the Gaza Strip, and so the PLO Executive Committee is scheduled to meet on 15 December in order to decide what will happen next.
The Executive Committee intends to extend Abbas’s term in office, and is set to refuse to accept his resignation. However if Abbas insists upon resigning the Executive Committee will announce the appointment of an acting president, until elections can be held or another president can be appointed.
There is nothing in Palestinian law to determine how a president be appointed under such circumstances, but the PLO Executive Committee, which established the PA, appointed Yasser Arafat as its president before he was elected, and this is a situation that may take place against in the future, especially if reconciliation with Hamas remains stalled. However if inter-Palestinian reconciliation takes place, the Palestinian legislative and presidential elections will take place in the middle of next year, as stipulated by the Egyptian negotiations.
Political analyst Hani al-Masri told Asharq Al-Awsat that “The Palestinian Authority’s dilemma is not the absence of Abbas, but in what approach to follow in the event of the [peace] negotiations failing.”
He added “What will the figure that comes after Abbas do? He will not be able to negotiate, because he will not be able to demand less than what Abbas demanded, and he will [also] be unable to adopt a different position, because this would result in the collapse of his authority.”
Palestinian and Israeli sources revealed that Abbas rejected proposals made by the US to get him to return to the negotiating table. These proposals included the Palestinian security services being provided with arms, the release of 400 Fatah prisoners [by Israel] before the Islamic religious holiday of Eid [27 November 2009], as well as the re-drawing of the jurisdiction of some Palestinian areas. This would see some regions currently held under Area B – which falls under Israeli administrative control but Palestinian security – be reclassified as being part of Area A – which is under complete Palestinian control – while some regions that are part of Area C – Israel administrative and security control – would be reclassified as part of Area B.
Israel Channel 10 revealed that Mahmoud Abbas rejected all of these proposals to return to negotiations, and this is something also confirmed by Palestinian sources.
Israeli sources also revealed that the US Consulate in Jerusalem, along with the PA, have set up a committee to monitor the [Israeli] construction of settlements in Jerusalem.