Mahmoud Abbas begins 17th year as Palestinian president


Palestine's veteran President Mahmoud Abbas is starting his 17th year in office amid political difficulties and waning prospects for Palestinian reconciliation.

In January 2005, Abbas was elected as president of the Palestinian Authority with a 62.52% majority to succeed the late Yasser Arafat.

Abbas was born in 1935 in Safad, a city about 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Jerusalem, 13 years before he and his family, along with hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians, were forcefully evicted from their homes and lands in a tragedy Palestinians refer to as the "Nakba," or Catastrophe.

As a result of the 1948 exodus, Abbas and his family went to Syria, where he began his political activities in the 1960s, contacting the nascent Fatah movement.

He assumed several political positions through the 1970s until he became the leader of the secret negotiations delegation in 1989 that established a peace process with Israel and coordinated the negotiations during the 1991 Madrid Conference.

"Abbas was a critical player in the Oslo Project, which gave the occupation recognition and gave it a place and authority over Palestine, and he continued this policy until today. This reflects on the high settlers' activities and the security coordination," said Palestinian political analyst Mustafa Sawaf.