Thousands of Palestinians are marking five years since the death of
Yasser Arafat, their iconic leader who pushed the struggle for an
independent homeland onto the world stage.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, was due to address a rally
in the West Bank on Wednesday where Palestinians remain divided,
pondering Abbas's refusal to stand in forthcoming elections.
Abbas said last week he would not seek re-election because of
stalled peace efforts that have failed to bring about an independent
A crowd waving Palestinian flags and banners of Abbas's political
party, Fatah, gathered in the West Bank's political capital of
Ramallah to honour Arafat, who led Palestinians for nearly four
decades, embracing armed struggle at first and then switching to
Abbas was to address the crowd amid grim predictions by his aides
that he may resign as president.
That would perhaps lead to the collapse of the Palestinian
Authority, which was established by Arafat during the Oslo peace
process in the 1990s.
'Moment of truth'
Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told the AFP news
agency: "The moment of truth has come and we have to be frank with
the Palestinian people that we have not been able to reach a
two-state solution through 18 years of negotiation."
Referring to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East
Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the Six Day War, he said: "We
have become convinced that Israel doesn't want a Palestinian state
on lands it occupied in 1967."
If Abbas were to resign, that would throw the divided Palestinians
into new legal and political limbo, analysts say.
According to Palestinian Basic Law, Abbas's resignation has to be
approved by two-thirds of the Palestinian parliament in order to
But the chamber has not convened since 2006 and it is unclear
whether it would do so if he quits.
If the resignation is approved, Aziz Dweik, the speaker of
parliament of Fatah rival, Hamas, would assume the presidency until
new elections are held within 60 days.
Abbas called for elections to be held in January but Hamas, which
has urged Palestinians to reject his leadership, called on voters to
stage a boycott.