Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations on September 20, 2017 in New York. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

Palestinians Take To Streets—For And Against Abbas

Supporters of Palestinian Authority president hold rallies in West Bank after Gazans denounce the Ramallah-based government

Hundreds of West Bank Palestinians are protesting against what appears to be a campaign in the Gaza Strip demanding that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas step down.

“It’s our duty to support Palestinian legitimacy,” Tamer Abu Nejem, an Abbas supporter in Ramallah, told The Media Line.

Abu Nejem urged people not to back what he described as American and Israeli agendas against the West Bank leadership. He was referring to a Middle East peace plan that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will soon unveil.

“Hamas is supporting these agendas, and we must protest that,” he said.

At a rally Sunday night in Saraya Square in central Gaza City, demonstrators accused Abbas of responsibility for the blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza and demanded the resumption of salary payments.

The rally was attended by supporters of the Palestinian left and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad movement. Proponents of the Democratic Front, which forms part of the PLO—the umbrella body that represents the Palestinian people internationally—refused to take part, stressing that the Front works strenuously to “stop these political and media polemics.”

Since last year, the PA has maintained sanctions on the enclave to punish Hamas for its failure to follow through on a power-sharing deal. The sanctions have included reduced salaries for Gaza-based PA employees as well as reductions in social and health benefits.

In the West Bank, Palestinian factions have been publishing statements against Hamas and in favor of Palestinian unity.

“Every time we [Palestinians] face a crisis abroad, Hamas comes up with illogical and shameful campaigns,” Ziad Abu Ziad, a spokesman for Abbas’s Fatah faction, told The Media Line.

“The conflict with Hamas has to do with ideology,” he said. “We will never work with any party that doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of the PLO.”

In parallel, the Fatah movement in Gaza launched a pro-Abbas campaign of its own on social media sites bearing the name “We chose you, President.” There have also been nighttime marches in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, where activists have taken down anti-Abbas posters. Hamas security forces have reportedly questioned dozens of Fatah members about the posters’ removal.

Back in the West Bank, though, not all Palestinians support Abbas.

“I believe a president is evaluated based on the political achievements made by his administration,” a resident of Ramallah told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. The individual was referring to the fast-approaching juncture when the PA will have to address President Trump’s so-called “deal of the century.”

Asad al-Owiwi, a political science instructor at Al-Quds Open University in Hebron, told The Media Line that “the majority of the Palestinian people are reacting to the huge risks to the Palestinian cause nowadays.”

While proclaiming the PLO to be the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, al-Owiwi said the only way out of the current divisiveness was to hold elections.

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