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January 24, 2014 2:32 pm

In 10th Year of 4-Year Term, Critics Say Abbas Has No Mandate to Sign Peace Deal

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Mahmoud Abbas being interviewed on Russia Today. Photo: Screenshot.

Now in his tenth year of a four-year term, critics of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas say he lacks electoral legitimacy within his Fatah party, while Hamas, the rival Islamist  party that controls Gaza, where an estimated 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs live, undermines his authority to negotiate a peace deal with Israel, according to Gatestone Institute scholar Khaled Abu Toameh on Friday.

“Abbas’s critics maintain that his decision unilaterally to extend his term in office violates Palestinian Basic Law,” Abu Toameh wrote. “They have also warned that Abbas’s move paves the way for ‘constitutional and legislative anarchy’ in the Palestinian territories. By remaining in power beyond his term, Abbas has given Hamas and other Palestinians a good excuse to argue that he is in no way authorized to sign a peace agreement with Israel.”

He quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying, “Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office expired a long time ago. He has lost his legitimacy. He does not have a mandate to negotiate or sign an agreement.”

Gaza is led by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who differentiates his party from Fatah by more openly declaring its intent to wage war against Israel. He recently preached to a gathering of young Gazans about the importance of educating “the future generation to love death for the sake of Allah as much as our enemies love life.”

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Abu Toameh’s analysis calls for more elections to gauge which party truly represents people from the two regions, although that risks the outcome of Islamic Jihad, and even more radical parties than Hamas, gaining power, especially in Gaza.

He also called for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to recognize the innate hypocrisy in demanding free elections around the world, but continuing to negotiate with Abbas whose term has long expired.

The Gatestone scholar wrote:

“Abbas was recently quoted as saying once again that any deal he signs with Israel would apply not only to the West Bank, which is under his control, but to the Gaza Strip as well… But how exactly does Abbas intend to enforce a peace agreement in the Gaza Strip when he cannot even visit his private residence there?

“It would have been better had Abbas called new presidential elections before the resumption of the peace talks with Israel. Such a move would have embarrassed Hamas and probably forced it to comply. But as of now it seems that neither Abbas nor Hamas is interested in holding new elections for the presidency or the legislative council. The status quo, where each side has full control over a mini-state (Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip) appears to be convenient for both parties.

“The only way to find out what Palestinians really want is by allowing them to head to the ballot boxes. Palestinians representing all groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, should be allowed to run in such an election. A victory for the radicals would mean that a majority of Palestinians do not want peace and continue to dream about the destruction of Israel. If Abbas and his political allies win, that would be great news for the peace process and Kerry’s efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

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