Abbas thanks Ahmadinejad for Iran’s help, but tensions resurface between Palestinians and Tehran.

Abbas and Ahmadinejad talk during Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Cairo. Photo by AFP

Abbas and Ahmadinejad talk during Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Cairo. Photo by AFP

Serious friction exists between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the leadership of Iran. It’s been there for years, but it’s on display again this week in Cairo.

Abbas met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Islamic summit in Cairo. He thanked the Islamic Republic for its help and support in creating a Palestinian state. However, behind closed doors, an Egyptian source says Abbas told Ahmadinejad to stop talking about annihilating Israel and talk more about creating an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 lines. I hope Mr. Abbas isn’t holding his breath. Ahmadinejad is expected to leave office this summer. The real power in Iran in the Ayatollah Khamenei, who continues to call for Israel’s annihilation and just flatly ruled out direct talks with the U.S over the nuclear issue.

“The source, who has knowledge of the details of the meeting between Abbas and Ahmadinejad in Cairo on Wednesday, told Haaretz that Abbas demanded the Iranian president talk more about the importance of establishing a Palestinian state and less about ‘wiping Israel off the map of the Middle East,'” reports Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper. “According to the source, Abbas made it clear to his Iranian counterpart, at the meeting on the margins of the summit of Islamic states, that Israel has been taking advantage of his comments and using them against the Palestinians. Therefore, Abbas said, it is important for a state like Iran to talk more about the rights of the Palestinians, the need for an end to the occupation and the struggle for the establishment of a state within the 1967 borders in accordance with principles outlined by the international community.”

“Contrary to reports that relations between Abbas and Ahmadinejad were warming,” notes Haarez, “Dr. Samir Ghattas, a Palestinian commentator who directs a research center in Cairo, told a Nazareth radio station on Thursday that the Palestinian president’s remarks about the conflict remain unchanged: ‘[Abbas] doesn’t change his stance vis-a-vis one leader or another and his stance vis-a-vis the president of Iran hasn’t changed since the two met in August on the sidelines of the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement [in Tehran].'”

Abbas and his PLO colleagues have long resented the enormous financial and military support Iran provides to Hamas, which is after all the rival Palestinian faction that crushed the PLO presence in Gaza several years ago, took over control of Gaza and has launched thousands of rockets, mortars and missiles at Israeli civilians. Abbas wants Tehran to be more supportive (financially, diplomatically and otherwise) of Abbas’s PLO faction known as Fatah. It is Fatah, under Abbas’s direction, that controls the West Bank. Abbas feels that Iran’s bellicose statements about destroying Israel make it more difficult for the Palestinians to create an independent state, an analysis that I believe is correct.

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran ‘is ready to annihilate Israel if it attacks one of the Islamic countries,'” reports Ynet News. “He was quoted by Egypt’s official news agency as saying that ‘the Iranian people are ready to ride on to Israel to destroy it. The Zionists hope to attack Iran but they’re afraid of the consequences. Our forces can deter any aggressor and make them pay.’ The Iranian president, who is currently visiting Cairo, met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit. In an interview with Iran’s Al Alam TV Abbas thanked Ahmadinejad for his country’s support of the Palestinian bid for UN membership. The two last met six months ago in Tehran on the sidelines of the Non Aligned Movement conference.

“It should be noted that the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Iran has generally been tense, especially in recent years,” Haaretz reports. “Abbas and Fatah have accused Iran of supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad and of contributing to the failure of reconciliation between the Palestinian rivals. At the meeting in Tehran, Abbas even made a crack about Ahmadinejad, who spoke about his love for the Palestinians; Abbas told him publicly that he expects him to ‘fall in love with all the Palestinians and not just some of them.’ Palestinian media did not feature the meeting yesterday prominently. Palestinian news agency Wafa released a short statement to the effect that the two leaders met for a brief conversation, in which they discussed the UN General Assembly decision to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state, the crisis in Syria and other issues raised at the Cairo summit.”

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