Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson New York (Opinion)
June 14, 2011 - 12:00am

It is time that someone in Washington started asking Abbas whether he has a clear mandate from his people to make historic decisions, including signing a peace agreement with Israel.

As the Palestinian Authority continues to threaten to ask the United Nations in September to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, someone needs to ask President Mahmoud Abbas whether he really has a mandate from his people to embark on such a step.

Today, there is no Palestinian leader who has a mandate to make any concessions to Israel in return for peace – especially when it comes to explosive issues such as the future of Jerusalem or the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.

The US Administration needs to ask Abbas whether he is also speaking on behalf of millions of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and around the world. It is not even clear these days if Abbas speaks on behalf of a majority in the PLO and Fatah.

Abbas's term in office expired in early 2009 and since then Palestinians haven't been given a chance to choose a new president through free and democratic elections.

Abbas has used Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip [in 2007] as an excuse for not holding parliamentary or presidential elections in the Palestinian territories. This sounds like a reasonable excuse in light of the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Hamas's refusal to allow Palestinians to go to the ballot boxes.

The Hamas-Fatah power struggle has also paralyzed parliamentary life in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian parliament, which is known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, has ceased to function since Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip.

In the absence of parliament and elections, the international community needs to ask Abbas about the decision-making process in the Palestinian territories and whether he represents a majority of Palestinians.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank believe that they have a monopoly over the decision-making process. Important and historic decisions, such as seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state, are being taken without an open debate in parliament and in the Fatah-controlled media.

Abbas consults only with a few PLO and Fatah officials, most of whom happen to be his loyalists.

PLO or Fatah representatives who dare to question his policies or decisions often find themselves ostracized or facing allegations of corruption and mismanagement. The case of former Fatah security commander Mohammed Dahlan is a good example.

Dahlan, a prominent member of the Fatah Central Committee, has been removed from the party for daring to criticize Abbas's performance in public. The Palestinian president has surrounded himself with officials who only agree with everything he says or does.

PLO and Fatah officials who have come out against Abbas's decision to go to the UN in September are being accused by Fatah-run newspapers and web sites of being part of an "outside conspiracy" to undermine the Palestinian Authority. Last week Abbas went a step further by blocking five news web sites under the pretext that they are run by Dahlan loyalists.

As far as the Palestinian Authority is concerned, it is a crime to be not only a collaborator with Israel, but also to support a top Fatah operative like Dahlan, who founded and headed one of the most powerful Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip after the signing of the Oslo Accords.


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