Mahmoud Abbas

Political Figure

Born: 1935
Birthplace: Safad, Palestine (now Israel)
Best known as: President of the Palestinian Authority
Mahmoud Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat as the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and in 2005 was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas was a former prime minister and the interior minister (April-September 2003) for the Palestinian Authority, the temporary governing body whose goal is the creation of a permanent Palestinian state. Abbas, like Arafat, was a founding member of Fatah, the political party that controls the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). If Arafat was the streetfighter, Abbas became the fundraiser and scholar; he has a PhD in history from the Oriental College in Moscow. Abbas led the PLO's Negotiations Affairs Department and served as the secretary general of the party. He is said to have been instrumental in the negotiations that led to the Oslo Peace Accords in the 1990s, and many hoped his role as prime minister could a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His critics, however, pointed to his long involvement with the PLO and its violent history, and accused him of historical revisionism for suggesting a connection between Nazis and Zionists during the Second World War. In the end, increased violence in the area and a power struggle with Arafat forced Abbas to resign a mere five months after being named prime minister. However, after Arafat's death, Abbas won the presidency of the Palestinan Authority in elections held on 10 January 2005. Fatah's rival political group, Hamas, gained ground under Abbas's presidency and in 2007 an uneasy Hamas-Fatah coalition government was formed. Violence in Hamas-controlled Gaza in June of 2007 led Abbas to split with Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and declare a state of emergency. Abbas dissolved the government and named Salam Fayyad as the new prime minister, but Haniya vowed to carry on, setting the stage for two Palestinian governments.
Extra credit: Abbas is also called Abu Mazen. It means 'father of Mazen,' his oldest son.

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