A prominent leader of the Hamas movement has stated that no one will be sorry about the departure of Mahmoud Abbas from the political stage because he achieved nothing for the Palestinian people.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, stated on Tuesday that Abbas’s announcement that he will not run in the presidential election is not a political maneuver because such tactics would only succeed with a popular national figure, whose decision to bow out could influence his people and prompt them to go on marches demanding him to reverse his decision to step down.
The Hamas official made a distinction between former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, saying that Nasser was loved by his people when he stepped down, but Abbas had to hire people to organize fake marches and demonstrations in an attempt to replicate the Nasser experience.
It is not clear if Abbas intends to follow through on his decision or whether it is an attempt to encourage the US administration to apply more pressure on Israel to halt construction activities in the West Bank and commit itself to relaunch the peace talks.
Israel says it will offer a temporary freeze but with significant caveats, including the continued construction of 3,000 settler homes, as well as continued building in East Jerusalem Al-Quds settlements. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a right-wing cabinet that is largely supportive of the settlement project.
If Abbas does not run in the next election, it might open the way for Marwan Barghouti, a popular leader from the Fatah party who is now serving five life terms in an Israeli jail.
Barghouti, who was elected to Fatah’s central committee last summer, has always balked at the idea of running against Abbas, but is widely regarded by Palestinians as one of their most popular leaders. He was jailed in 2002 for his involvement in the second Palestinian uprising.