GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the United Nations on Sept. 24 outraged opposition groups including Hamas, which said his remarks were a clear acknowledgment of his inability to make any achievement through the Oslo process he is leading.
Wafa News Agency reported Sept. 23 that Hamas was attacking Abbas online prior to his speech at the United Nations, due to the impasse that the movement is in after the reconstruction failed and the Qatari grant was halted. It added that Hamas is trying to export its crises by targeting Abbas.
Relations between Hamas and the PA are seemingly very tense, as the two sides have escalated their accusations in the media.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem described Abbas’ speech as weak and not living up to the Palestinian people’s aspirations. He added that the speech showed that Abbas recognizes the failure of his political path, and “did not commit to arranging the Palestinian’s internal affairs on democratic foundations.”
He noted that most Palestinian factions, not just Hamas, have tense relations with the PA, because Abbas is obstructing the elections and Palestinian reconciliation, and his government committed a number of errors related to the Israeli government and the killing of political activist Nizar Banat.
An opinion poll on Sept. 22 showed that an unprecedented 78% of respondents want Abbas to resign. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research stated that the poll was conducted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between Sept. 15-18. An opinion poll conducted six months ago showed that 68% of the respondents wanted him to step down, it said.
This opinion poll coincided with the launch on Sept. 19 of the e-campaign inside and outside Palestine, dubbed the Palestinian Popular Gathering. It demands that Abbas steps down. An online petition calling for his resignation was launched.
The campaign also calls for holding general elections, rejects the PA security services’ encroachments, and calls for justice in the Nizar Banat case.
The Palestinian street erupted against Abbas after he postponed the legislative and presidential elections that were scheduled for May 2021, on the pretext that he had not received a response from the Israeli side on holding them in East Jerusalem. Anger intensified after the killing of Banat by the Palestinian security services in June. with clashes and popular demonstrations against the PA and public demands to topple Abbas.
Qassem denied any direct or indirect role for Hamas in supporting the campaign.
Mohamed Shukri, a Palestinian activist in the campaign, told Al-Monitor that Abbas’ actions and speeches do not meet the Palestinian people’s demands. He stressed that the campaign wants to get the Palestinian situation back to normal, after Abbas monopolized power for more than 16 years.
“The Palestinian cause no longer has any prospects because of Abbas," he said. “We recently saw hundreds of people taking to the streets of Ramallah, calling for his departure after his involvement in the assassination of Banat. But the PA met these demands with repression and arrests.”
Shukri accused Abbas of disregarding popular demand for his departure, and depriving the Palestinians of political practice. He said, “The Palestinian people have the right to determine who governs them and represents them in all political and international forums.”
He underscored that the campaign will continue until its goals are achieved, and that it will intensify depending on the political situation.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza, denied that the campaign was linked to Abbas’s speech, or the PA announcing that it intends to hold municipal elections. He added that it was pure coincidence and that this is not the first time that the Palestinians have demanded that Abbas resign.
He said, “There were similar campaigns calling for Abbas’s departure, due to the deteriorating general situation in Palestine, but they did not garner a big participation and support, or even a response from the other Palestinian factions and forces.”
No Palestinian movement can make these demands to come true, he said, especially Hamas, which criticizes the PA’s path and accuses it of failure, and only calls for elections at the same time.
Political analyst Talal Okal doubted that the latest opinion poll would put any pressure on Abbas. “Abbas considers himself the head of the Palestinian legitimacy and accuses any party that rejects him of deviating from the national ranks,” he told Al-Monitor. “Hamas and the PA take advantage of any event to accuse each other in the media.”
Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a political analyst close to Hamas, told Al-Monitor that opposition to Abbas is increasing, even within the Fatah movement, especially after he decided to obstruct the elections.
“It seems that there is a big vacuum that caused crises between Abbas and the Palestinian street,” he said. The PA no longer has a political project, and limited itself to security coordination with Israel, he said, and people can tell the difference between Abbas’ speeches at the United Nations and his actions on the ground.
“Hamas is angry with Abbas and the PA," he said, "but it does not …call for his departure, because it does not own its decision. This is why it directs its anger towards the occupation so as to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip.”