RAMALLAH, West Bank — “Unsurprising” and “underwhelming” appear to best characterize the speech delivered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Jan. 6 that led to widespread expressions of frustration among the Palestinian populace. In light of the political dead-end with the Israelis, everyone — except perhaps the Fatah movement that Abbas leads — had expected, or hoped for, a speech announcing potentially game-changing decisions or at least a way to move the Palestinian cause forward, beyond its current crisis.
Abbas in the speech reaffirmed the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its affiliated institutions, which he presented as a national achievement. In light of Israel's refusal to cease settlement building and return to the negotiating table, Abbas called for an international conference to compel Israeli compliance with resolutions related to the Palestinian issue. He also proposed that Hamas and other factions agree on the formation of a national unity government and take part in legislative and presidential elections, which he alleged Hamas was avoiding for fear of failure.