Generation president-less: When will Abbas visit Gaza?

Generation president-less: When will Abbas visit Gaza?
3 min read
03 Apr, 2017
While Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas took care to follow the events of Arab Idol, Gazans wondered when will it be their turn to be followed, writes Mohammed Arafat.
Assaf (L), winner of Arab Idol, kisses Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas July 1, 2013 [Getty]

Since Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip ten years ago, the question of Abbas’ visit to the enclave has been a permanent one on the Palestinian’s mind.

Just like the West Bank, where the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas lives, Gaza is another part of Palestine. His elected responsibility lies not only to the Palestinians in the West Bank, but also to those in Gaza.

Numerous news outlets have hinted repeatedly of an imminent visit, only for the claims to be rejected by presidential sources.

During an official visit to Lebanon to meet Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, Abbas managed to include a visit to the Palestinian contestant competing in Arab Idol.

Palestinians could only react in wonder when Abbas met the Emirati singer, Ahlam Al Shamsi, and said he "follows her always." Palestinians responded by wishing Abbas could follow Gazans wellbeing instead.

Mockingly, a hashtag was launched, "Abbas, follow us".

As economic insecurity grips Gaza, many are hopeful that a visit by Abbas could mean the merging of the West Bank with the Gaza Strip.

Our generation is the only generation that grew up without a president. We live here with no president, no government, and no dreams

Mahmoud, a Palestinian student from Al-Azhar University, said he wants to see the president in Gaza, so that, "we can finally live with no divisions between Hamas and Fatah."

"Our generation is the only generation that grew up without a president. We live here with no president, no government, and no dreams."

Asma Masoud, an English teacher, is optimistic about what a visit from Abbas means, believing it would be the end of wars, division and humanitarian situations that the Gaza Strip suffers from.

Unfortunately, while many Palestinians cling onto the hope that a visit from the Palestinian president would bring an end to the crisis rocking the Strip, it is unlikely that Abbas will visit Gaza any time soon.

Jihad Harb, a Palestinian writer and analyst, believes the main reason preventing the president from visiting Gaza is the division between Fatah and Hamas.

"There are no security guarantees that would be there during his visit," he added.

Harb however, thinks that the Palestinian president can visit Gaza only if there is a reconciliation between both parties, and that a visit would be the first step in executing the reconciliation's terms and conditions in which the Palestinian Authority (PA) can control Gaza again.

Ameen Maqboul, a Fatah official, agreed with Harb that Abbas could not go to Gaza due to the Palestinian division, adding that the president can only visit when there are sufficient security guarantees that would protect him.

"When the president was in Gaza years ago, he was under threat of assassination while his parade was in Salah al-Deen Street," he explained.

Maqboul added that the visit is not easy since there are still worrying situations and tensions with Hamas.

"Palestinian unity between Fatah and Hamas can ease the visit of the Palestinian president to the Gaza Strip."

Meanwhile, political writer and analyst, Mostafa el-Sawaf, thinks that if Abbas cared about Palestinians in the Strip, he would have visited Gaza ten years ago to end the division.

"Abbas does not need the Strip, and he does not consider Gaza as a part of Palestine," el-Sawaf added.

"He was invited several times to visit Gaza, but he refused. He does not need Gaza, thinking Gaza is excluded from this country."

Until then, the Palestinians in Gaza wait for someone to represent them, to talk for them and consider them – in short, to treat them as humans.

Mohammed Arafat holds a bachelor degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and is preparing for a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies. Author of, Still Living There, a book documenting Gaza's last war and its aftermath.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.