Palestinians agree: ‘Pres.’ Abbas really isn’t

One of the recurring themes of my posts (see, e.g., here, here and here) has been that His Excellency, The Most High, The Honorable, The Esteemed, etc., etc., Mahmoud Abbas, is not, despite all appearances and honorifics to the contrary, the president of the Palestinian Authority.  This is a matter of simple arithmetic: Abbas was elected to a four-year term as president, which term began in January of 2005.  Add ‘4’ to ‘2005’ and what do you get?  That’s right: his term expired in 2009, and he has never been re-elected, because there has never been an election since 2004.

And now, more than ten years after Abbas’ term expired, even the Palestinians are admitting that his ‘presidency’ is fictional.  The website of the Palestinian Information Center reports that the Supreme Constitutional Court of the Palestinian Authority has decreed that Abbas’ term did in fact expire in January of 2009, and that “all the decisions, decrees, actions, [and] orders” issued by ‘Pres.’ Abbas after that date are “null and void”.  But, not to worry: in the wake of the Court’s decree, the Palestinian Legislative Council will be “exercising its constitutional mandate and its legislative, supervisory and financial duties.”  Whew!  That’s a relief.

Although there is, as I’ve tried to indicate, a frankly comical aspect to the sudden discovery that a presidential term of office expired ten years ago—it took the Court a decade to do the math?—there is also a more serious side to the story.  The serious side is that, no matter how many distinguished people and institutions insist that Abbas is the genuine ‘partner for peace’ upon whom Israel ought to rely to bring the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to an end, he is nothing of the sort.  The unadorned truth is that Abbas is neither the de jure nor the de facto leader of the Palestinians.

That Abbas is not the de jure leader of the Palestinians—that is, the person who by reason of his official position has the right to represent the Palestinians—has just been confirmed by the Palestinian Supreme Constitutional Court and the Palestinian Legislative Council.  Those two bodies have decided and decreed that Abbas’ term as president expired ten years ago.  Moreover, everything he has purported to do since January of 2009 as ‘president’ is a nullity.  So, if ‘President’ Abbas were to sign a peace treaty with Israel tomorrow, that too would be a nullity.

Perhaps even more importantly, Abbas is not now, and at least since 2007 has not been, the de facto leader of the Palestinians.  He is, in fact, a ‘leader’ who has virtually no followers, or, at least, no followers who matter when it comes to peace with Israel.  In 2007, when Abbas actually was president of the Palestinian Authority, the Islamist terrorist group Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from the PA, killing many PA troops in the process.  Since that coup, Abbas has not set foot in Gaza, because he knows that Hamas would like nothing better than to assassinate him.

Under Hamas rule, Gaza has become the center for Palestinian terrorist attacks, by both secular and Islamist groups, against Israel.  It is the place where mortars and rockets are periodically launched into Israel, where attack tunnels have been dug into Israel, and where violent riots are organized on a weekly basis along the border with Israel.  The most dedicated enemies of Israel are all headquartered in Gaza, where Abbas has zero influence.  And those Gazan terrorist groups are the ones who would have to lay down their weapons if a peace agreement signed by ‘President’ Abbas were to deliver real peace.  One would have to be hallucinatory to believe that a piece of paper signed by Abbas would actually bring peace.

To understand exactly how impotent Abbas is when it comes to influencing Hamas and the other Islamist terrorist groups in Gaza, one need only read a recent story in The Times of Israel headlined: “Abbas meets family of Israeli held in Gaza, offers to help”.  The subheading reads: “PA president says he will speak to parties that hold influence with Hamas to try to secure the release of Avera Mengitsu[.]”

The headlines reveal the gist of the story: an Israeli civilian of Ethiopian origin has been held in Gaza for five years, and his family has asked Abbas to obtain his release.  Abbas, the man who is supposed to be the leader of Palestinians who reside in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, has agreed to “try” influence the rulers of Gaza to release the Israeli.  A leader usually doesn’t “try” to influence people who have violently and illegally seized power from his own government.  Rather, he takes that power back, using force if necessary.  Abbas, when all is said and done, is a cipher, a perfect exemplar of the empty suit.

One last thought.  You will note that, in its headline and the story that follows, and in all the copy it prints, the Times of Israel refers to Abbas as “President” of the PA.  In fact, all the papers I read refer to him him as “President”.  But I know he’s not president.  And you know he’s not president.  Even the Palestinian Legislative Council and Supreme Constitutional Court know he’s not president.  When will the ToI and all the other newspapers, networks, and news-channels learn what you, and I, and the Palestinians already know?

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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