In July 2003, the then Palestinian Authority Chairman, Yasser Arafat, described Mahmoud Abbas as a “traitor” who “betrayed the interests of the Palestinian People.” Arafat loathed Abbas to the very end. This particular outburst was made during a meeting with United Nations envoy Terje Larsen. The meeting took place a few months after Arafat was coerced by the US, Israel and other Western powers to appoint Abbas as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.
Historically, Abbas has been the least popular among Fatah leaders; the likes of Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad and Arafat himself. These popular leaders were mostly assassinated, sidelined or died under mysterious circumstances. Arafat is widely believed to have been poisoned by Israel with the help of Palestinians, and Abbas has alleged recently that he knows who killed him.
Yet, despite his unpopularity, Abbas has remained in one top position or another. The power struggle between him and Arafat which culminated in 2003, until Arafat’s death in November 2004, hardly helped Abbas’s insipid reputation among Palestinians.
At times, it seemed that the less popular Abbas became, the greater his powers grew. Now, he has just been re-elected as the head of his political party, Fatah, during its seventh congress held in Ramallah on 29 November. At 81, he is the leader of Fatah, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and President of the Palestinian Authority.