Mahmoud Abbas confirmed as unchallenged PLO leader

Mahmoud Abbas confirmed as unchallenged PLO leader

Veteran president will continue to lead the Palestine Liberation Organisation after controversial four-day event

Mahmoud Abbas giving his controversial speech
Mahmoud Abbas giving his controversial speech

The PLO has confirmed 83-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as its unchallenged leader in a carefully staged four-day event.

The PLO parliament also backed Mr Abbas’s positions in several resolutions early on Friday, including rejecting the idea of a Palestinian state within provisional borders.

Palestinians fear such a “mini-state” will be the core of US President Donald Trump’s eventual proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Delegates also elected new members to the main leadership body, voting out some of the remaining Abbas critics.

The PLO, founded in the 1960s, was meant to represent Palestinians everywhere, but decision-making has shifted to the Abbas-led West Bank autonomy government.

Critics say that in the absence of Palestinian general elections, the PLO serves largely to lend legitimacy to Mr Abbas’s increasingly autocratic rule in the West Bank.

This comes amid  condemnation directed at the 83-year-old leader, over anti-Semitic language he used in relation to the Holocaust.

The British Government criticised his comments at the opening of the Palestinian National Congress, where he said Jews had been killed throughout history because of their “social function” in areas such as banking.

Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said: “The fundamentals of peace cannot be built on views of the Holocaust which fly in the face of history. Palestinian President Abbas’s comments were deeply concerning. Any attempt to justify or explain away any element of the Holocaust is unacceptable.”

He added: “President Abbas has shown a commitment to non-violence and a two-state solution. But his recent rhetoric does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people and is deeply unhelpful to the cause of peace.”

Abbas’s speech in Ramallah, where he said that Jews caused the Holocaust with their “social behaviour,” was  also slammed by Israeli President Rivlin.

“How can a leader who expresses such dark anti-Semitic ideas present himself as a partner in peace?” asked Rivlin. “Anti-Semitism doesn’t create a dialogue. There is no negotiating with anti-Semites.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said Abbas’s remarks were “unacceptable, deeply disturbing and do not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or peace in the Middle East”.

Abbas’s speech was attended by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who has promised that a Labour Government would “formally recognise the State of Palestine and urge other countries to do the same”.

A spokesman for pro-Israel think-tank BICOM said she had not mentioned Abbas’s anti-Semitic statements “despite posting a lengthy statement on Facebook about her experiences”.



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