Factions react as Rajoub says PLO decision to end Israel, US agreements ‘strategic’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Palestinian leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 19, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Factions react as Rajoub says PLO decision to end Israel, US agreements ‘strategic’

  • We have made a strategic decision and will be holding marathon meetings to work out the mechanism to implement this, Rajoub says

AMMAN/GAZA CITY: The senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) figure, Maj. Gen. Jibril Rajoub, has told Arab News that the decision, announced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to abrogate all agreements with Israel and the US was a strategic one.
Abbas made the announcement on Tuesday during a speech in Ramallah that the Palestinian Authority was absolving itself of agreements on security and administration, saying that Israel would have to take responsibility for the decision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
“We have made a strategic decision and will be holding marathon meetings to work out the mechanism to implement this,” Rajoub said. “We will continue to contribute to regional stability and global security.”
Rajoub, who is the secretary of the PLO’s main faction, Fatah, told Arab News that its central committee would hold a critically important meeting on Thursday to discuss the implementation period. “I am certain that in the place of the Oslo Accords, the role of the PLO will be enhanced and popular nonviolent struggle will be escalated.”
Asaad Abdel Rahman, a former PLO executive committee member, told Arab News: “The leadership must agree to enhance the role of the PLO — our representative body and our final refuge.” Abdel Rahman conceded that the idea of having new elections was a good idea, but said that it was not currently feasible. “You need to go with what you have now and wait for the right movement to re-energize the organization,” he said.
Abdel Rahman added that Israel had squandered the opportunity to work productively with the most moderate of all Palestinian leaders. “Abbas is the most moderate leader Israel has dealt with for decades. They are making a terrible mistake by pushing him in this direction. The Israeli piracy of our lands is nothing less than an international scandal that no one can accept.”

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Anis F. Kassim, publisher of the Palestine Yearbook of International Law, told Arab News that the Palestinian leadership was in danger of losing all legitimacy by canceling agreements with Israel without having an alternative. “The leadership needs to quickly seek some way of restoring the legitimacy derived from the public, because they can no longer claim their legitimacy from the signed agreements with Israel and the US,” he warned.
“The ruling elite has lost their legitimacy; they don’t have popular support and now they have lost the Oslo Accords which gave them some legitimacy. The next time they go to collect taxes people will ask on what basis should they pay. If their decision is genuine, they need to find a way quickly to regain the support of the people.”
Kassim said that for the time being, those in power could run things like “an ad-hoc management body” but they needed either internal elections or elections for the Palestinian National Council, or both, to avoid a “legal black hole.”
Diana Buttu, former legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team, told Arab News that the real test would be the reaction of the global community. “It is a question of whether the world will continue to support Palestinians even without the Oslo Accords.”
Abbas’ decision, meanwhile, triggered mixed reactions in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas considered the decision in line with its stance, and called for its implementation on the ground.
“The declaration of a total break from the Oslo agreement, and the consequent security and political deals, the foremost of which is security coordination with the occupation forces, needs implementation on the ground through clear and specific steps,” a Hamas statement said.
It added: “This trend confirms the correctness of the movement’s positions and the forces of resistance from this ominous agreement 27 years ago.”
Describing negotiations as absurd, Hamas urged the Palestinian leadership to refrain from adopting further negotiation.
“Hamas believes that facing the project of annexation and the ‘Deal of the Century’ requires a national struggle at all levels through an integrated plan agreed upon by the leaders of the Palestinian factions and all popular forces,” it added.
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) expressed support for the decision, but demanded its effective implementation.
“Translating this decision calls for a series of procedures and steps without delay, and within a specific time,” a DFLP statement said
It asked the PLO for “immediate withdrawal of the recognition of the state of Israel until it recognizes a Palestinian state as per the borders of June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Israel should also stop settlements and cancel its annexation project, it added.
Zulfkar Swirjo, a writer affiliated with the DFLP, said Abbas’s statement was not definitive, especially since the decision was not presented to all Palestinian factions.
“The statement did not touch on restoring the cohesion of the Palestinian political system, in order to confront any upcoming issues,” he said.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.