During the Sept. 30 state funeral at Mt. Herzl cemetery for Shimon Peres, Israel’s ninth president and former prime minister, the cameras paused at length on the face of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. When one of Peres’ sons eulogized his father, Abbas appeared to be covering his face as if shedding a tear over the demise of his partner to the Oslo process. That photo unleashed a huge storm in the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Gaza Strip and across the Arab world. Hamas news websites and social media decried this action, with one site saying, “Mahmoud Abbas weeps over the departure of a terrorist.” Others said that although he covered his face, his true colors were revealed.
The criticism that was leveled at the Palestinian president came as no surprise to senior Fatah officials who predicted its magnitude. They knew that the footage would be exploited by his rivals — both from Hamas and from his own Fatah movement. While municipal elections originally scheduled for Oct. 8 in the West Bank and Gaza were suspended by a Palestinian court last month, there is no doubt that when and if they take place, the footage of Abbas with Peres will surface again and be used against Abbas. The West Bank elections have now been reset for February.