Since Mahmoud Abbas announced last Thursday the postponement of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elections and blamed Israel for refusing to allow the elections in eastern Jerusalem, criticism has been growing against him from outside and at home, as he faces Hamas’ attempts to destabilize the PA.
In a surprising announcement, former Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani called for Abbas’ resignation and the transfer of power to the younger generation. In a tweet, al-Thani stated that “with the announcement of the postponement of the parliamentary elections, the Palestinians have returned to zero, and although the reasons that led the Palestinian president to postpone the elections are clear, I say that it is his duty and by virtue of the current circumstances at this stage of his life, to transfer power in a peaceful and democratic manner.”
The announcement is surprising due to Abbas’ close relationship with the Qataris and due to the fact that his family maintains personal and business ties in Qatar. A source in Ramallah said that Abbas broke his promise to the Qataris to go to reconciliation with Hamas. Abbas’ commitment led Qatar to put pressure on the moderate wing of Hamas, led by Khaled Mashaal, to adopt the reconciliation and go to the polls despite conditions set by Abbas, and despite opposition from the Hamas military wing in the Gaza Strip.
It is not just Qatar that is calling on Abbas to leave. The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which has good sources in Hamas, also called on Abbas on Monday to resign and to establish an “alternative leadership.” The newspaper criticized Abbas and stated that “as expected, Abbas announced the postponement of the election until they are allowed by the ‘occupation’ in Jerusalem, precisely at a time when thousands are protesting against his stance and demanding that Israel not be given the right to decide on a Palestinian issue.”
A PA source told TPS that even political figures in Europe are angry about the postponement of the election and especially after Abbas pledged to a senior British representative two days before announcing the postponement that he would not postpone them.
“The Europeans waited for Abu Mazen’s announcement in the hope that he would give them another period of time so they would work with Israel to hold elections in Jerusalem,” said a Palestinian Authority source, adding that in the end, the PA chairman decided to “disregard even his friends in Europe.”
Former UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nikolai Mladenov, said that the cancellation of elections was a dangerous and unjustified matter. In a tweet, Mladenov said that “there was no legitimate reason to cancel the election and deprive the Palestinians of the right to elect their leaders. This is a dangerous step that severely undermines their national goal.”
The European Union also criticizes Abbas, saying the decision to postpone the planned elections, scheduled for May 22, “is very disappointing.”
Sources in the PA added that the possibility of postponing the elections to November has recently risen after the PA improves its internal situation thanks to the renewed American aid and after the political situation in Israel becomes clear, and certainly if a left-wing government is formed that will permit elections in eastern Jerusalem.
According to a senior Palestinian Authority official, this possibility is also not on the table and Abbas is expected to end his rule while deepening the split with Hamas and the rifts within Fatah.
An Israeli security source told TPS a few days ago that “the Palestinian Authority will not be what it was up until the election was postponed, or until the election order was published.”
Meanwhile, from within, Hamas, which believes that “Abu Mazen stole the election with Israeli assistance,” as one of its operatives told TPS, is posing a serious challenge to the stability in the PA’s territories.
The sequence of terror attacks in recent days indicates a new trend that may continue in the coming weeks. Although Palestinian Authority sources describe the series of attacks as revenge for the events in Jerusalem, following the clashes at the Damascus Gate and Israel’s intention to evacuate families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, they add that Hamas is also trying to undermine the stability of Abbas’ rule.
Hamas spokesmen are also encouraging the continuation of the attacks as a means of pressure on the Palestinian Authority and are demanding an end to its security coordination with Israel.
Meanwhile, all Palestinian terror organizations welcomed the attack at the Tapuach Junction on Sunday evening and called for the continuation of the intifada in Jerusalem, while also hinting at the PA’s responsibility for tensions within the PA Arab arena following the postponement of the election.
The eyes are now on Jerusalem Day, celebrated this year on May 9, when Arabs will mark the night of Al Qadr during the Muslim month of Ramadan, ands after Hamas called for a mass presence in and around Jerusalem.