Former advisor to Palestinian negotiating team joins ALL ARAB NEWS Advisory Board – and gives us his take on the extreme unpopularity of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, as he begins 17th year of his 4-year term
I have found Ghaith al-Omari to be a bold, independent, moderate and refreshing voice in the Palestinian world
As 2022 begins, I am deeply honored to announce that Ghaith al-Omari has just joined the ALL ARAB NEWS Advisory Board.
From the earliest days of the launch of ALL ARAB NEWS, al-Omari has been providing us with fascinating insights into Palestinian politics and society.
Indeed, I have found him to be a bold, independent, moderate and refreshing voice in the Palestinian world and I believe our readers will benefit from hearing from him more often.
“Joining ALL ARAB NEWS’ stellar Advisory Board members is a true honor and pleasure,” al-Omari said. “In the short period since its launching, ALL ARAB NEWS has emerged as a leading source of news and analysis, often giving insights into how the region itself and its leaders view Middle East developments.”
Al-Omari added, “ALL ARAB NEWS is essential reading for anyone following the region, and the focus on Evangelicals brings an important – and often overlooked – voice into the conversation about this complex region.
SO, WHO EXACTLY IS GHAITH AL-OMARI?
For starters, he served as advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team during the 1999–2001 permanent-status talks.
Before that, he served as the executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine.
Currently, he is a senior fellow in The Washington Institute for Near East Policy where his research focuses on Palestinian politics, Jordanian politics and peace diplomacy and he is a regular media commentator on these and other regional topics.
In addition to policy research, al-Omari regularly appears at American university campuses advocating for a civil, constructive dialogue about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
My first interview with him – published on Sept. 14, 2020 – was headlined, Emirati, Bahraini peace deals with Israel could be a ‘win, win, win’ for Palestinians, but major change of strategy needed, former Palestinian negotiator tells ALL ARAB NEWS.
My second interview with him – published on Nov. 9, 2021 – was headlined, Israeli PM ‘Bennett is on the right track’ towards strengthening relations with Arab world, former advisor to Palestinian peace negotiating team tells ALL ARAB NEWS in exclusive interview.
Here is part 1 of our two-part interview, in which I asked al-Omari for his take on the most dominant and controversial figure in the Palestinian world.
ROSENBERG: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has just begun the 17th year of his original four-year term – how is his physical health? And how would you assess his political popularity and job security?
GHAITH AL-OMARI: It is hard to assess his health, as it is not a topic that is openly discussed. A few years ago, he had a number of health scares that prompted discussion of succession, but none of these proved serious. In recent months, there has been no indication that his health is failing. But as someone in his mid-80’s who does not lead the healthiest of lifestyles, this could change very quickly.
The question of popularity is easier to assess, as there is ample polling on the question. According to a December 2021 poll conducted by Dr. Khalil Shikaki, dissatisfaction with Abbas’ performance stands at 71%.
Three-out-of-four Palestinians (74%) want Abbas to step down. This is a result of many factors ranging from the failure of the peace process, with which he is closely identified, to domestic issues, such as corruption, human rights violation and lack of public freedoms.
The low popularity does not necessarily translate to lack of job security, though.
For one thing, there is no mechanism to replace him since elections are out of the question in the foreseeable future. Moreover, Abbas has systematically undermined any politician who shows signs of growing popularity and is increasingly becoming more willing to use brute force against his opposition.
The combination of his unpopularity on the one hand, and the lack of peaceful, orderly ways for affecting political change have created a severe legitimacy deficit that is impacting the whole Palestinian political system and creating a potentially volatile situation.