January 9 marked the nineteenth anniversary of Mahmoud Abbas’s election to a four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority. Since then, no new presidential elections have taken place, and the eighty-seven-year-old Abbas has taken no substantive steps to establish a peaceful transfer of power in the event of his death. Bassam Eid explains how this situation came about, and considers how Palestinians might gain their freedom:
In 1993, the peace-seeking Israeli government handed governance of the Palestinian residents in Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a notorious terrorist organization that was known to be responsible for the murder of Israeli Olympic athletes and of schoolchildren, and the hijacking of cruise ships and planes. . . . In 2000 and again in 2001, the Israeli government made generous permanent peace offers that would have created an independent Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Instead, Arafat opted for war. . . . After those bloody years, the world largely breathed a sigh of relief when Arafat slipped this mortal coil and left power in the hands of longtime deputy Mahmoud Abbas.
Relief didn’t last long. Although Abbas was elected to a full term which began in 2005, and legislative elections were held in 2006, no further elections for any branch of government have been held since that time.
Over 2 million Palestinians live under the tyrannical power of Abbas’s PA in the West Bank, including me and many of the people I care most about. Abbas is the real occupier of our cities and our homeland, not our future partner Israel, which has consistently had a majority in favor of peace and not Benjamin Netanyahu, a leader who has explicitly supported the idea of a Palestinian state so long as Israel maintains the necessary security controls.
Abbas has offered us neither democracy nor independence, but we remain a free people. It is time for the Palestinian nation to reach a new agreement with Israel and the international community, abolishing the dictatorial rule of Abbas and the PLO and instead granting our people what we truly deserve: peace with dignity alongside our neighbor, the Jewish state of Israel.