West News Wire: Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, made his first trip to Jenin since 2012 on Wednesday. The occupied West Bank city was upset with his administration’s persecution of activists and lack of response to Israeli attacks.
The 87-year-old traveled by helicopter from the PA’s Ramallah headquarters and went to the Jenin refugee camp and cemetery, which are both home to numerous Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces.
When three senior PA officials attended the funerals for the 12 Palestinians who died in Israel’s massive operation on July 3rd, they were heckled by a throng at the same cemetery last week.
The PA’s silence during the raid, which over two days damaged or destroyed more than 80% of homes in the Gaza Strip, has left many Palestinians feeling betrayed.
Nearly 1,000 Palestinian armed guards were stationed in Jenin, according to local accounts, to protect Abbas’ arrival.
Speaking to large audiences in Jenin, Abbas referred to the nearby refugee camp as a “icon of struggle and steadfastness” and promised to reconstruct it after the Israeli raid destroyed it.
He also sternly warned those who, in his words, sought to undermine Palestinian unity.
“We came to say that we are one authority, one state, and one law… and we will cut off the hand that tampers with the unity and security of our people,” he declared.
After a brief stopover that lasted almost two hours, Abbas flew back to Ramallah in a chopper.
Abbas’ security cocoon contrasts sharply with that of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, who, up until his passing in 2004, frequently travelled between Palestinian cities, drawing sizable audiences.
Abbas, on the other hand, hardly ever leaves Ramallah, where the PA is headquartered.
In 2012, he last visited Palestinian cities like Jenin, Nablus, and Hebron.
Under Abbas, the PA has grown disconnected from the daily struggles of ordinary Palestinians and appears powerless to offer essential services or put an end to the frequent Israeli raids across the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank have reached record levels not seen since the Second Intifada, before Abbas became president, as a result of an increase in Israeli attacks over the past two years.
The PA, established in 1994 following the Oslo Accords, holds devolved authority over parts of the occupied West Bank and was supposed to mark the first tentative step towards Palestinian sovereignty and negotiations over the creation of an independent state.
In the years since its creation, however, it has become widely unpopular over its corruption, authoritarianism and security cooperation with Israel. Abbas has also long outstayed his mandate as president.
The PA’s collapse would see governance of the occupied territory fully returned to the Israeli state, as was the case between 1967, when Israel conquered the territory, and 1993.