JERUSALEM – Financial corruption involving a cellular phone company and his two sons may be at the center of an unexpected request by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to delay a United Nations vote regarding a report accusing Israel of war crimes.
According to Israeli diplomatic sources, Abbas’ decision was made under heavy pressure from the Obama administration, which feared a U.N. vote could delay the resumption of negotiations to create a Palestinian state.
Palestinian diplomatic sources, however, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity, say Abbas was also under a different kind of pressure that impacted the finances of his two sons, Yasser and Tareq.
Through a third party, the sons are major shareholders in Al Wataniya, a new national Palestinian cellular phone company attempting to get the necessary permits from Israel to launch.
Israeli sources confirmed getting scores of recent requests from Abbas’ office for Israel to withdraw objections to the Wataniya bid, which would make the company the second Palestinian cellular phone company after Jawal, a private Palestinian cellular service. Israel says Wataniya’s requested cellular frequency has legal and security problems.
Palestinian diplomatic sources told WND that Israel warned Abbas it would not approve Wataniya’s licensing requests if the PA continues to press war crimes charges at the U.N.
“The Israelis said, ‘Don’t ask from us every day for licensing and codes [for Wataniya] and then accuse us of being war criminals. On the one hand you ask us for favors and on other hand you blame us as criminals,’” said a PA source.
The U.N. report, authored by South African judge Richard Goldstone, claimed both Hamas and Israel were guilty of war crimes during the Jewish state’s defensive war in Gaza this past December and January. The war was started after Hamas refused to extend a cease fire, instead launching a rocket offensive against Israeli population centers.
The U.N. report has been slammed here as anti-Israel. The report equates Israel, which worked to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, to Hamas, a terrorist organization that utilized civilians as human shields and fired rockets at Jewish cities from Palestinian hospitals and apartment buildings.
During the Gaza war, Israel sent hundreds of thousands of text messages and placed tens of thousands of calls warning local Palestinians of incoming attacks against Hamas’ military infrastructure in Gaza.
Abbas’ request that the U.N. Human Rights Council delay its vote on the Goldstone report shocked both Hamas and the Palestinian public.
It is notable that immediately after Abbas made public his objection to the U.N. vote, the first protest resignation came from Bassem Khoury, the PA’s economic minister.
Sources close to Khoury told WND the minister did not resign to protest Abbas’ political move, but because he received signals that if the Wataniya matter became known, Khoury would be publicly blamed for pressuring the PA into opposing the U.N. vote to soothe the way for Wataniya’s approval.