Abbas, Mahmoud

(1935- )
   Born in Safed, Palestine. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, he and his family moved to Syria, where he graduated with a law degree from the University of Damascus. In 1982, he defended his doctoral dissertation at Moscow University on the "secret ties between Nazis and the Zionist Movement leadership." Two years later, he published a book in Jordan based on these findings entitled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and Zionism. In 1957, Abbas was one of the founding members of Fatah and remained a close confidant of Yasser Arafat. He became a member of the Fatah central committee and was elected to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee in 1980. Elected to the first Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996, he was a principal negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel and signed the Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization Declaration of Principles on 13 September 1993 on behalf of the Palestinians. In 1995, he conducted a series of secret talks with Labor members of the Knesset and deputy foreign minister Joseph (Yossi) Beilin on the framework for a permanent Israeli-Palestinian settlement. In 1997, he was named by Arafat as his designated successor. He wrote a book published in Arabic under the title The Path to Peace (Through Secret Channels, in English).
   Beginning in the fall of 2000, Abbas publicly criticized the militarization of the Al-Aksa intifada; though he supported the continuation of the Palestinian struggle against Israel, he claimed the use of armed violence and terror against Israelis, especially against civilians inside the Green Line, was only provoking greater and greater retaliation by Israel that was resulting in more Palestinian casualties and the destruction of the Palestinian social and economic infrastructure. In March 2003, Abbas was appointed to the newly formed position of prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by Arafat. However, frustrated by his inability to wrest real authority over Palestinian affairs away from Arafat, Abbas resigned on 6 September 2003. Abbas essentially disappeared from Palestinian political life until the fall of 2004, when he and Ahmed Queria (Abu Alla) took over the daily operation of both the PA and the PLO from the ailing Arafat. After Arafat's death in November Abbas became acting chairman of the PLO; on 9 January he was elected chairman of the PA, taking 62 percent of the popular vote. In the subsequent period, he contended with Ismail Haniya of Hamas, who was chosen as prime minister in the elections of 2006. The Palestinian internecine conflict led to the separation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into two contending Palestinian areas. While Haniya and Hamas continued violent action against Israel and Fatah, Abbas pursued a dialogue with Israel, seeking to move in the direction of resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, Abbas agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to undertake intense direct bilateral negotiations toward the goal of achieving by the end of 2008 an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty based on the two-state model envisioned by President George W. Bush of the United States and in the Quartet Roadmap.
   See also Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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