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Obama visit: Abbas brings Palestinian cause, but not support, to Washington

Not only are Fatah and Hamas deadlocked in a power struggle. Abbas’s own Fatah bloc has rejected his new government.

On the eve of his White House meeting with Obama on Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dined with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.

United States State Department/Reuters

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas came to meet President Barack Obama on Thursday to discuss the future of Middle East peace.

But he is hobbled by the present instability back home.

Not only are Palestinians bitterly divided between Hamas and Fatah, estranged by politics, geography, and Israeli restrictions on their movement. Now Mr. Abbas's main support base in his government – the Fatah bloc of lawmakers – has summarily rejected the cabinet he cobbled together last week in what critics call a rushed attempt to present Mr. Obama with a sound negotiating partner.

"The idea was to form a government that would arm Abu Mazen [Abbas] with something stable before he met with Obama, but it backfired," says Hani el-Masri, head of Badael, the Palestine Media, Research and Studies Center here.

"It was a rush to establish a new government by ignoring the internal conflicts and the Hamas-Fatah dialogue," says Mr. Masri. "Instead, they should have postponed forming a new government until after the meeting with Obama, and waited at least until July."

Abbas promised disgruntled party members that he would hold a Fatah Congress on July 1 to determine the way forward. It's not yet clear whether the congress – which would be the first of its kind in 20 years – will be held, and if so, where.


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