The Presidency of Mahmoud Abbas expired in January 2009. He has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of anybody.
Officials in Ramallah say that the Palestinian leadership is being dragged, against its will, to the negotiating table with Israel. They say that the only reason the Palestinians agreed to hold unconditional talks with Israel is because of threats and pressure from the Americans and Europeans.
Who are Abbas and Fayyad?
One is president whose term in office expired a long time ago. The other a prime minister who won about two per cent of the vote when he ran in an election. Now both of them have been invited by the US Administration to hold direct peace talks with Israel on behalf of the Arabs Palestinians.
The 18-member PLO Executive Committee, which met in Ramallah last week to approve the “Palestinians” participation in the direct talks with Israel, is dominated by unelected veteran officials.
Only nine PLO officials attended the meeting. The PLO constitution requires a minimum of 12 members for a quorum.
This means that, contrary to reports in the Palestinian and international media, Abbas and Fayyad do not have the support of the PLO committee to negotiate directly with Israel.
With regards to the Central Council of Fatah, it remains unclear whether its 21 members ever endorsed the US invitation to hold direct talks with Israel.
Some of the committee members have even issued contradictory statements over the past few weeks regarding the direct talks. In the beginning, most of them seemed to oppose such talks unless Israel agreed to stop settlement construction and recognized the 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state.
Now, however, most of the committee members appear to have changed their minds — clearly as a result of immense US pressure on Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.
So here is a president whose term in office expired in January 2009 — and who has won the backing of only some of his traditional loyalists — preparing to negotiate with Israel about extremely important issues such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and security.
Source: Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)