The fate of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seems to be entwined with that of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief Mahmoud Abbas, who is trying to overcome a scandal that has angered Palestinians.
On Sunday, over 3,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip staged a rally in support of anti-government protests in crisis-hit Egypt.
But the gathering soon turned into an anti-Abbas protest, with demonstrators shouting slogans against Mubarak’s protégé in the West Bank.
The protesters were enraged by newly-leaked secret documents, which accused Abbas of postponing a UN report about the 2008-2009 Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip.
The deadly 22-day war left at least 1,400 Palestinians dead and destroyed half of Gaza’s infrastructure.
In October 2009, UN investigator Richard Goldstone led an independent fact-finding mission created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the Gaza War.
But the vote on the mission’s findings was postponed until March 2010.
The leaked Al-Jazeera documents titled the ‘Palestinian Papers,’ show that the PA had played a major role in delaying the report, in return for the resumption of the failed regional peace talks led by the United States.
On Sunday, the PA chief accused Al-Jazeera of trying to topple his regime.
“They tried to spread lies because they thought that what happened in Tunisia could happen in Palestine,” Abbas said, referring to the uprising in Tunisia that removed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power this month.
The PA chief’s attack on Al-Jazeera came as Egypt closed down the station’s bureau in Cairo and withdrew credentials of all its staff. Abbas has threatened to follow suit and ban Al-Jazeera from operating in the West Bank.
The uprising in Egypt has deeply alarmed PA officials, who warned that the downfall of Mubarak’s regime would be a severe blow to the so-called “moderate Arabs” in the region.
“We are worried that the collapse of his regime would strengthen Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official and adviser to Abbas.
In a show of support for Mubarak, Abbas’ security forces quickly broke up a small solidarity rally for the Egyptian protesters outside Egypt’s diplomatic mission in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday.
Human Rights Watch on Monday criticized the PA for the breakup, accusing its members of harassing rally organizers.
The developments in Egypt are also being closely watched by Gazans, who believe any change in the Cairo government, which has imposed restrictions on their blockaded territory, would be positive.
Since 2007 — when Tel Aviv imposed a deadly blockade on the Gaza Strip — Mubarak has helped Israel keep the enclave isolated by closing down its Rafah borders.
Egypt’s policy has been globally condemned. Gazans also believe that Mubarak’s ouster will affect Abbas’ rule in the West Bank.
"The end of the unjust regime in Egypt will accelerate the end of the Abbas authority and militias," one of Gaza’s residents said.