Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Born in Safad, in the Galilee (Palestine) in 1935. His family fled Safed in 1948 and settled in Syria, where he worked as an elementary school teacher. He received a BA in law from Damascus University and a Ph.D. from the Oriental College in Moscow in history. He moved to Qatar where he worked as director of personnel in the civil service and began to manage and organize Palestinian groups. He was a founding member of Fatah and has been a member of the Palestine National Council since 1968. Abbas has headed the PLO Department for National and International Relations since 1980 and was elected by the PLO Executive Committee to replace Abu Jihad, who was assassinated, as chairman of the portfolio on the Occupied Territories in May 1988. Abbas served as Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. On January 9, 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the Palestine National Authority.

Abbas has long been considered an exponent of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He advocated negotiations with Israelis and initiated a dialogue with Jewish and pacifist movements in the 1970s.

Abbas has been a moving force in the Oslo peace process, and in trying to revive the process after the outbreak of violence in September, 2000. He coordinated the negotiation process during the Madrid conference. He headed the Palestinian negotiating team to the secret Oslo talks. Abbas signed the 1993 The Oslo Declaration of Principles with Israel on September 13, 1993, on behalf of PLO. Abbas has been the head of the PLO Negotiating Affairs Department since 1994 and signed the Interim Agreement in September 1995 for the PLO.

Abbas came to live in Gaza and Ramallah in September 1995 after the signing of the Oslo accords. In October 1995. Abbas headed the Central Election Commission for the Palestine Legislative Council elections in Jan.1996 and was elected as a representative for Qalqilya. He was the Palestinian chair of the Israeli-PA final status talks in May 1996. He was also elected the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee in 1996, making him the second in command after Yasser Arafat

In March 2003, Abbas was appointed the first Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, under pressure from the US and Europe to institute reforms. Some progress was made in controlling internal corruption and in financial transparency. However, most reform moves initiated by Abbas were frustrated by Yasser Arafat, who refused to surrender authority over security services, and by lack of support from Fatah rank and file, as well as lack of support from Israel. After Abbas made it clear that he would seek a Hudna (truce) with Palestinian factions rather than try to suppress them. Though Israel withdrew troops from some areas of the West Bank that had been occupied since Operation Defensive Wall, and eased some security restrictions, the Israeli government refused to release Palestinian prisoners in any numbers. Attacks declined very briefly in July of 2003. The quiet was finally broken by several severe attacks in August, showing that Abu Mazen was not in control of the security situation.

Though Abbas visited the White House, he came away from the meeting empty handed. Abbas resigned as Prime Minister on September 6, 2003. He was replaced by Ahmed Qurei. After his resignation, Abbas remained Secretary General of the PLO Executive, and quietly went about the business of political rehabilitation. When Yasser Arafat became ill in October 2004, Abbas, along with Ahmed Qurei, took control of the Palestinian Authority and PLO.

After Yasser Arafat's death Mahmoud Abbas was seen, at least by Fatah, as his natural successor. On November 25, Abbas was endorsed by Fatah's Revolutionary Council as its preferred candidate for the Palestinian presidential election, scheduled for January 9, 2005. With his main contender, Marwan Bargouti, dropping out of the race, Abbas' election was virtually ensured, and on January 9 Abbas was elected with 62% of the vote as the new president of the Palestinian Authority.

Despite Abbas' call for a peaceful solution, attacks by militant groups continued after his election, in a direct challenge to his authority. Islamic Jihad launched a raid in Gaza on January 12, killing one and wounding three military personnel in Gaza. On January 13, Palestinians from Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hamas, and the Popular Resistance Committees launched an attack on the Karni crossing, killing six Israelis. As a result, Israel shut down the damaged terminal and broke off relations with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

On January 23 2005, Abbas had secured a 30-day ceasefire from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. On February 12, Palestinians attacked Israel settlements and Abbas quickly fired some of his security officers for not stopping the attacks in a ceasefire.

In May of 2005, Abbas travelled to the White House and met with President George W Bush of the United States. Bush, in return for Abbas' crackdown on militant groups, pledged $50 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority and reiterated the U.S. pledge for a free Palestinian state.

On August 9, 2005 he announced that Palestinian legislative elections, originally scheduled for July 17, will take place in January of 2006.

On January 15, 2006 he declared that despite unrest in Gaza, he would not change the set date of the elections (January 25), unless Israel decided to prevent Palestinians in East Jerusalem from voting.

On January 16, 2006 he said that he would not run for office again at the end of his current term.

On May 25, Abbas gives Hamas a 10 day deadline to accept the 1967 cease-fire lines.

On June 2, Abbas again announced that if Hamas does not approve the prisoner's document - which calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict according to the 1967 borders - within two days, he would present the initiative as a referendum. This has since been extended until June the 10th 2006, although Hamas spokespeople say that a change in their stance will not occur, and that Abbas is not constitutionally permitted to call a referendum, especially so soon after the January elections

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