Profile: Mahmoud Abbas

Moderate Palestinian Authority president and leader of the PLO and Fatah.

Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a founding member of Fatah, one of the main Palestinian factions, Mahmoud Abbas is a former school teacher who has led Palestine during the hardest of times.

In 2016, Abbas was re-elected as Fatah’s president in the party’s first conference in seven years.

Also known as Abu Mazen, Abbas became president of the PA in 2005 following the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004. 

Abbas was known as a moderate who would engage in the peace process, after his four-month stint as prime minister from May 2003.

But his presidency has been hampered by significant internal and external difficulties, leaving him isolated.

After the Palestinian group, Hamas, defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections in 2006 and subsequently took complete control of the Gaza Strip, divisions between the two parties have become ever more fraught.

While Israel has attacked Hamas militarily and politically, Abbas, whose Fatah rules the occupied West Bank, has attempted to work with the Israelis for peace.

This has led to criticism of Abbas for alleged weaknesses.

Reacting to US President Donald Trump‘s planned relocation of the US embassy in Israel, President Abbas warned “of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world”.

Protesting new Israeli security measures at the al-Aqsa compound in July 2017, Abbas declared “the suspension of all contacts with the Israeli side on all levels until it cancels its measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque and preserves the status quo,” Abbas said.


Abbas, who studied law, was born in 1935 in Galilee in Palestine – now northern Israel – while it was under British control.

He has lived in exile in Syria, Qatar, Jordan, Tunisia and Lebanon.

Before becoming PLO president, Abbas worked as head of the group’s national and international relations in the 1980s and undertook a security role in the 1970s.

Known as an intellectual and pragmatist, he is said to have been a key player in initiating the talks that led to the Oslo peace accords between the Palestinians and Israel in 1993.

He has written numerous books and is married to Amina Abbas, with whom he has three sons.

Source: Al Jazeera