Thursday, November 19, 2009

Abbas: Mideast peace deal won't happen with me; Rumored Successor to Abbas, Ghneim - would Be Death to Peace Process

(Haaretz).Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week countered Israeli and American claims that a Middle East peace deal could be reached before the end of his term.

In an interview with Egyptian television on Wednesday, Abbas also denied that either side has been pleading with him persistently to remain in office against his declared plan not to run for presidency in the Palestinian Authority's next election.

"If [Israeli and U.S.] intentions are sincere, then I am still here and have been here for years - they could have reached a deal with me already," said Abbas. "If Israel is prepared to advance peace on the basis of prior agreements and in accordance with the outline laid out in the road map, then it can do so with any Palestinian leader that succeeds me."

Abbas said he had made clear during talks with U.S. President Barack Obama that he did not see himself as likely to convince Israel to halt construction in West Bank settlements. "I told President Obama, if you can't halt [settlements] why could I?"

His decision to step down - viewed by many in the international community as a political tactic - was final, said Abbas. "There is nothing I can give to my people, so I should quit," he said. "My decision is clear: I will not run in any elections."

( PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas is serious about retiring from political life and wants senior Fatah official Muhammad (Abu Maher) Ghneim to replace him, according to the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera. Relying on “Palestinian sources,” the newspaper reports that Abbas's statement that he wishes to retire was not a bluff aimed at pressuring Israel.

Ghneim, 72, was a founding member of the Fatah terror group in 1954 and participated in the founding of the PLO in 1964. He is a member of the militant stream inside the organization and played an important role alongside Khalil El Wazir (Abu Jihad) in initiating the First Intifada in thelate 1980s and early 1990s. Ghneim opposed the Oslo peace agreements.

Israel allowed Ghneim to enter Judea and Samaria earlier this year to participate in the Fatah general convention, but it did not grant him permission to stay permanently and he had to leave after three months.

Ghneim is considered the second most important man in Fatah today due, among other reasons, to his appointment as Abbas's deputy in command of “Palestinian armed forces.” His main rival for leadership is Marwan Barghouti, who is in jail in Israel.

American sources quoted by the Al Jazeera newspaper said that “if Abu Maher Ghneim is appointed chairman of the Palestinian Authority this would mean the death of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”