Dr. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was born in 1935 in Safad in northern Israel, at that time part of the British Mandate. Abbas left his hometown with his family in 1948 when Israel was created, moving to Syria. He holds a B.A in Law from Damascus University. Abbas earned his Ph.D. in history from Moscow’s Oriental College. His doctoral thesis denies that six million Jews died in World War II. In his Arabic-language book “The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism” Abbas rejects “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed. The limited number that did succumb were victims of a joint [Nazi-Zionist] plot”.
Mahmoud Abbas was a founding member of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) present, along with Yasser Arafat, in the 1964 beginnings of the terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Since 1968 he has been a member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) and rose to Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee. The Executive Committee and the PNC are the top two decision-making bodies of the PLO.
Abbas is considered a moderate, one of the Palestinian Arabs interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel. He advocated negotiations with Israelis and initiated a dialogue with Jewish and pacifist movements in the 1970s. He led negotiations with Matiyahu Peled that resulted in the announcement of "principles of peace" based on a two-state-solution in January 1977. He also coordinated the negotiation process during the 1991 Madrid Conference. His long contacts with Israeli leftists won him a reputation as a PLO dove and he headed the Palestinian negotiating team to the secret Oslo talks. Abbas therefore played a key role in the Oslo Peace process during the 1990s. As Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, Abbas was signatory of the 1993 Declaration of Principles that launched the Oslo peace process. Two years later, in 1995, Abbas signed the Interim Peace Agreement with Israel.
In March 2003 Abbas was appointed as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority by Arafat, to placate American demands that "new leadership" emerge to bring the Palestinian Arabs into the Road Map peace process. In April, Abbas' cabinet choices --full of Arafat supporters-- were "reluctantly" accepted by Arafat. Abbas' very first speech as Prime Minister, on April 28, 2003, included demands that Israel release all terrorists, the opposite of what is called for under the Road Map. The speech also included homage to Arafat when Abbas turned to Arafat and stated:
- This government, Mr. President, is your government.
This statement confirmed suspicion of claims that Arafat was no longer in power and that Abbas was independent of Arafat, as called for by U.S. President Bush. Since Abbas has been Arafat's top deputy for nearly 40 years this was not surprising to observers. Despite the contradictions, there were no objections to Abbas' appointment or his subsequent behavior.
On September 7, 2003 Abbas resigned as Prime Minister. He had attempted to negotiate an end to the violent behavior of terrorist groups among the Palestinian Arabs, but Yasser Arafat never yielded enough power to Abbas to make enforcement possible. It is not clear if Abbas would have used the power even if available. The inherent conflicts of the position led him to give up and Yasser Arafat reasserted his control.
Abbas Elected Palestinian Authority President
Following the death of Yasser Arafat on November 11, 2004, Mahmoud Abbas was elected Palestinian AuthorityPresident in an election held January 9, 2005. His substantial margin of victory was widely interpreted as giving him a mandate to negotiate a new peace initiative with Israel.