Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas was criticized by both his Fatah faction and rival Hamas for attending the funeral of Shimon Peres and for his handshake with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Haaretz reports.
In a Facebook post Friday morning, Fatah criticized Abbas’s decision to attend the funeral, but also said that “despite our displeasure with the President’s attendance at Peres’ funeral, we know [he is just as patriotic as we are] and we don’t have all the information.”
“We know that many in the Israeli public have taken the rhetoric and policies of Abu Mazen to heart, declaring their solidarity with us and, in the future, pressuring their government,” the statement, quoted by Haaretz, said.
Fatah spokesman Munir al-Jaghoub later justified Abbas’ decision to attend the funeral for international diplomatic reasons.
“We as Palestinians must realize that his participation sends a strong Palestinian message of peace to the world, especially at a time when the international community is monitoring its responsible position. [This message] could be one of the most important among participating countries,” Jaghoub was quoted as having said.
Hamas, meanwhile, used Abbas’s avowed appreciation for Peres to portray him as a traitor to his people.
Nashat Aqtash, a communications professor at Birzeit University near Ramallah who advised Hamas in the 2006 elections, told Haaretz that Abbas’s attendance at the funeral “caused Palestinians to feel their president doesn’t respect their feelings.”
“Palestinians despise Peres more than they despise [former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon,” he told the newspaper. “Sharon may have starved the Palestinians, but Peres besieged them with his soft-spoken rhetoric. That’s worse.”
Hamas had also criticized Abbas on Thursday, saying in an official statement that the PA leader’s expression of condolences to Peres’s was “an insult to the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
The statement added that “the Palestinian people are pleased by the death of the criminal Shimon Peres.”
In a separate statement on Thursday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called on Abbas to take back his decision to attend the funeral, claiming it would encourage other Arab leaders to follow suit.
Hamas-affiliated news outlets on Facebook were enraged by Abbas’ attendance of the funeral and particularly his handshake with Netanyahu, noted Haaretz.
The Gaza-based Shehab News Agency posted a screen capture of Abbas bowing his head during one of the speeches, along with the hashtag “taking part in condolences for Peres is treason.” That image has gone viral, with some claiming it depicts Abbas shedding a tear.
Quds News Network, another popular Facebook page, dedicated an article to negative reactions on the Palestinian Arab street to Abbas’s decision to attend the Jerusalem.
“He was the number one propagator of the illusion of compromise which he marketed and sold us,” said Badran Jaber, a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was quoted as having said. “The result is the blood of martyrs, settlement activity, and land appropriation [by Israel] which all mark the current situation.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)