Abbas Orders Palestinian Branch of Geneva Initiative Closed Over Political Rivalry

Israeli branch of peace initiative condemns move by Palestinian president to shut down NGO headed by ousted PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo.

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Abbas heads a PLO executive committee meeting in Ramallah, June 22, 2015.
Abbas heads a PLO executive committee meeting in Ramallah, June 22, 2015.Credit: AP

In yet another move to minimize the influence of his political opponents, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday signed a presidential order for the closure of the Palestinian branch of the Geneva Initiative.

The head of Palestinian Peace Coalition, an NGO devoted to implementing the Geneva Initiative, is Yasser Abed Rabbo, who was recently fired by Abbas from his post as PLO secretary general for voicing criticism against the Palestinian president.

Palestinian Peace Coalition was founded after the Geneva Initiative was unveiled in 2003. The nonprofit is working to promote the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in various sectors of the Palestinian society and is also holding meetings between Palestinians and Israelis. The group receives most of its funding from the Swiss government, the sponsor of the Initiative, but also from the EU and foreign ministries of Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.

The presidential order states that the offices of the NGO will be closed and its assets seized by the Palestinian Information Ministry. Nidal Fuqahaa, the group's executive director, told Reuters he intends to challenge Abbas' order in court.

Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin during the launch of the unofficial Geneva Initiative, 2003.Credit: Reuters

Geneva Initiative condemned Abbas' move. "We regret that a personal power struggle led to a decision to close the Palestinian branch of the Geneva Initiative," it said in a statement. "The Israeli branch will continue to work with its Palestinian partners regardless of the organizational structure to promote the two-state solution idea which enjoys receives the support of the majority of the public in both nations."

The close the NGO is part of a political settling of accounts in which Abbas is taking part against his rivals in the last few months. Apart from the removal of Abed Rabbo, Abbas a few weeks ago also acted against a social nonprofit headed by former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, as well as against other NGOs affiliated to the former Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan.

Abbas, who adopted patterns of authoritarian rule similar to that of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, is using Palestinian security forces to prevent protests by various organizations, to arrest journalists, bloggers and even private citizens over critical Facebook posts or tweets.