Palestinians outraged over Abbas bowing to Israel, US
The Palestinian Authority's decision to postpone a vote on the Goldstone report last week is the last straw for many, sparking protests in the West Bank and Gaza.
Ramallah, West Bank
Demonstrators descended Monday on this city's most famous traffic circle, Manara Square, which for years was a launching point of Palestinian protests against the Israeli occupation.Skip to next paragraph
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This time, however, the demonstrators were directing their ire against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Local leaders bellowed into the flag-waving crowd, accusing Mr. Abbas of capitulating to US and Israeli pressure. While frustration has been building for several weeks, the catalyst was the PA's decision late last week to delay a vote on the Goldstone report, the most comprehensive international investigation to date of Israeli conduct in the devastating Gaza war.
"This report was an opportunity to expose Israel's behavior," says protestor Omar Mansour, who traveled from Jenin to participate. "This postponement is embarrassing not just for Palestinians, but for everyone in the world who tried to help us attain justice. Even worse, the PA leadership put itself in this position at a time when there are no negotiations to save."
While the demonstration was small – several hundred men and women participated – Abbas faces a serious threat to his credibility and to his ability to enforce public compliance with any promises Palestinian negotiators make in renewed talks with Israel. Mr. Abbas's decision to ask the Palestinian Authority to delay a United Nations Human Rights Council vote on the recommendations of the Goldstone report has sparked widespread anger in the West Bank and Gaza.
"The extent of outrage over this is really tremendous," says Mamdouh Aker, the Commissioner-General of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.
The anger appears to extend beyond the Palestinian territories. A day after criticizing the Palestinian Authority for backing down against Israel, Syria canceled an Abbas visit scheduled for Tuesday, reported the Associated Press in Damascus.
Abbas faces censure
The UN investigation, led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, produced a 575-page document that says there is sufficient evidence that both the Israeli army and Hamas committed war crimes. But the report reserves the bulk of its criticism for Israel.
The UN Human Rights Council was set to approve the report's recommendations – which included asking the UN Security Council to refer war crimes cases to the International Criminal Court if either side failed to launch investigations into their alleged crimes within six months.
Israel has gone on a diplomatic offensive since the report's release in mid-September, challenging its credibility and saying it is full of bias and inaccuracies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared last week that if the report were to be adopted and forwarded to the UN Security Council, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be plunged into a deep freeze.
Under pressure from both Jerusalem and Washington to give the peace process top priority, Abbas asked the Palestinian leadership at UN headquarters in Geneva to postpone a vote until the council next meets in March. Without Palestinian participation, other Arab and Muslim nations didn't press the matter further.