Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t been in this much trouble with his people in four years as Palestinian president. Never very popular, he is widely dismissed here as ineffective and now he seems to have misread popular sentiment regarding Israel’s war on his Hamas rivals in Gaza.
By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press
In this photo released by the Jordan Royal Palace, King Abdullah II of Jordan, right, receives Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009.(AP Photo/Jordan Royal Palace, Yousef Allan)
With continued international support, the Western-backed moderate will likely be able to stay on, despite Hamas’ insistence that his presidency ended Friday. But his declining popularity at home does not bode well for the inevitable next round in the battle between Islamic militants and Palestinian moderates seeking a peace deal with Israel.
At the start of Israel’s offensive, Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, said the territory’s Hamas rulers were at least partly to blame, because they provoked Israel with constant rocket fire.
Many West Bankers, even those who oppose Hamas’ violent ideology, view the war in Gaza as an assault on all Palestinians. Israel says it’s targeting Hamas strongholds in Gaza, but hundreds of civilians have also been killed. In West Bank homes, TVs are obsessively tuned to Arab satellite stations which run the brutal pictures of Gaza’s dead and wounded that Western audiences are less exposed to.
“When it comes to Israel, we are all Hamas,” said Nablus resident, Hanan Izzat, 42.
Abbas has since hardened his tone toward Israel, describing the unprecedented bombing from air, land and sea as “brutal aggression.”
However, in recent meetings with advisers and Palestinian activists, he rejected more dramatic steps, participants said. Ideas raised included halting security coordination with Israel, suspending already dormant peace talks or releasing hundreds of Hamas security prisoners as a goodwill gesture.
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