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Cablegate: Abbas Proclaims Support for September 2 General

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4672
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

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SZUBIN/LOEFFLER/NUGENT/HIRSON; BRUSSELS FOR LERNER; PLEASE
PASS TO USAID FOR KUNDER/MCCLOUD/BORODIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ECON EFIN KPAL KWBG PGOV PHUM ELAB
SUBJECT: ABBAS PROCLAIMS SUPPORT FOR SEPTEMBER 2 GENERAL
STRIKE; HAMAS BLOCKING ACTION FAILS

REF: JERUSALEM 3906

1. (SBU) Summary: PA President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen)
told striking PA employees gathered outside his Ramallah
office August 30 that they have a right to express their
opinion by all appropriate means, thus signaling his support
for a planned general strike set to start September 2. He
urged that the demonstrators demand both their salaries and a
national unity government as a means of ending the current
crisis. He also repeatedly called for a halt in the firing
of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Fearing that the general
strike may prompt the downfall of the Hamas-led government,
Hamas coalition members pushed August 30 for Palestinian
Legislative Council (PLC) approval of a resolution to
postpone the strike for at least two weeks, but failed to win
sufficient support. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Approximately 2000 striking PA employees marched
August 30 from Manara Square to Abu Mazen's Muqata'a office
in Ramallah. The crowd was well-controlled by Fatah and its
affiliate groups, according to observers. Abu Mazen,
accompanied by Salah Rafat (PLO Executive Committee member)
and Azam al-Ahmed (Head of the PLC Fatah Bloc), addressed the
crowd, making the following points:

-- It is time to end the siege and the suffering.

-- To those who say "we stay hungry but we will not kneel;"
it's not you but the people who are hungry (Note: Comment
intended to rebuff Hamas and its slogans. End Note.)

-- You have the right to say or do whatever you want within
the limitation of law and order.

-- We have to raise our voices; we have to call for and
demand salaries.

-- We should also say that we want a national unity government

-- The national dialogue must culminate with the formation of
a national unity government.

-- The government should serve the interests of the people,
not Fatah or Hamas.

-- Rocket attacks must stop immediately

-- In two months, 250 people have been killed in Gaza and
houses destroyed. Why?

-- Money received from the Arab League and other sources was
spent legally. He who says otherwise is a liar. (Note:
Comment directed at Hamas accusations of corruption. End
Note.)

3. (SBU) During an August 30 PLC session, Hamas supporters
proposed a resolution to postpone the general strike by at
least two weeks in order to give the government time to find
a solution to the salaries issue. The proposal was submitted
by Ziad Abu Amre, an independent from Gaza who ran in the
January 2006 PLC elections with support from Hamas. The
measure was defeated, with 21 in favor but 28 opposed.

4. (SBU) PA Prime Minister Ismael Haniyah appealed for calm
August 30, stating that "The Palestinian government embraces
all its employees, adopts their demands and does its best to
ease their suffering," according to press reports. He also
asked that PA employees in the education and health sectors
continue working. He said that the PA had pledged USD 5
million to be paid to 50,000 PA employees. A
Hamas-affiliated media outlet issued a statement condemning
those calling for a strike, challenging the legitimacy of a
teachers union supporting the strike and beseeching "our
brothers the teachers and employees to ignore and abort all
calls for a strike."

5. (SBU) Comment: As the September 2 start date of the
general strike approaches, Hamas has become increasingly
concerned about the threat it may pose to its hold on power.
Some of the demonstrators outside of Abu Mazen's office
chanted a rhyme in Arabic "No to Haniyah. Yes to the
thieves," suggesting that many Palestinians would prefer the

return of a corrupt Fatah-led government just to ensure
payment of their salaries and an end to the economic
free-fall of the past six months. End comment.

WALLES

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