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In Egypt: An interview with President Mahmoud Abbas

Karam Gabr

Published: Updated:

The meeting took place at al-Andalus Palace in Heliopolis, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the presence of some media colleagues, and lasted two hours, in which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “Abu Mazen” explained the developments of the Palestinian cause from A to Z.

Abu Mazen’s vision—as I pointed out to him—is half optimistic and half pessimistic; optimistic in terms of tangible changes in the US position on the Palestinian issue after President Biden’s arrival, and pessimistic regarding Israel’s “autocracy” and Hamas’s “obstinance.”

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America, in Abu Mazen’s opinion, is calling the shots, and it can force Israel to acquiesce. What is new is the improvement in the situation under Biden compared to Trump, as the latter was hostile to the Palestinian cause and invented the “deal of the century” which the Palestinians completely rejected, and cut aid to the Palestinians, forcing Abu Mazen to take a strict position by stopping all forms of cooperation with Trump.

Biden, in Abu Mazen’s opinion, is different, as he recognizes the two-state vision, is opposed to unilateral actions by any of the parties, and intends to return the US Consulate to East Jerusalem. But such promises require application in reality, and instructions to be given to Israel to implement.

Abu Mazen is betting on the gradual change in American public opinion in favor of the Palestinian cause, and believes that it will inevitably affect decision-making, as some Americans have begun clamoring that Israel is a racist, hostile state.

Bennett’s Israel is less wicked than Netanyahu’s. The last meeting between Abu Mazen and Netanyahu was 11 years ago, during which the Israeli prime minister did not accept to discuss any files except the security file, which in his opinion requires 40 years before moving on to the other outstanding files.

Netanyahu declared frankly that he is working to maintain the estrangement between Fatah and Hamas, because Palestinian division is in Israel’s favor and adds to its strength, and justifies the argument that “we can’t find anyone to negotiate with.”

In all cases, Israel will implement whatever America decrees, and in the meeting between Abu Mazen and the Israeli Defense Minister, which took place last week, the latter said that he is postponing talking about the two-state solution and adherence to international legitimacy. Gradual confidence-building measures were agreed upon, such as reunification of families, discussing the issue of P.O.W’s, and the cessation of settlement-building and settler attacks.

Hamas and Fatah: the most difficult sticking point.

Abu Mazen asserts that there is no cooperation with Hamas unless it recognizes international legitimacy, meaning UN resolutions, human rights and the Oslo Accords, and if Hamas does not grant Israel such recognition, he will not talk to them.

I told Abu Mazen that the Palestinian internal division poses the greatest danger, and it seems that reconciliation between Fatah and Israel is easier compared to Fatah and Hamas, with the sole beneficiary being Israel, but Abu Mazen emphasized the saying “recognition of international legitimacy” first.

Abu Mazen talked about the internal situation and everyday living difficulties, but redressed: “Praise be to God, we have electricity, and no one goes to bed without having dinner.”

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Egyptian newspaper Akhbar Elyom.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.