Israel Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority Palestinians

The Israelis never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Thursday that he might not run for re-election in January, although it’s not clear if the announcement should be taken seriously, as it might be a ploy to pressure the U.S. and Israel.

It’s useful to remember that, like this blog, Abbas has been assailed by extremists from both sides, which means he has probably been on the right track. He is deemed a traitor and a venal collabator by the far left and Hamas supporters (some people, astonishingly, are in both camps). He is judged to be untrustworthy and two-faced by the far right, including Y Ben-David, one of the regular commentators on this blog.

Americans for Peace Now’s indispensable Middle East Peace Report, prepared by Noam Shalev, culls instructive reports and reactions to Abbas’ annoucement from the Hebrew press. The best come from Dov Weissglas, former Prime Minister Sharon’s chief of staff, and Ephraim Sneh, the former Deputy Defense Minister who actively negotiated with Abbas and his people. According to Weissglas:

The Abbas’ announcement follows a “growing sense among the Palestinians that Israel is not interested in reaching a political resolution of the conflict… the despair and loss of faith are real.”

Weissglas notes that the current Palestinian government “has done a better job than any before to fight terrorism. The Palestinian government under Abbas and [Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad’s leadership has succeeded in restoring quiet and security stability. In what was an impressive operation, the Palestinian Authority successfully reorganized its security forces, imposed law and order, prevented terrorism and maintained unprecedented coordination with the Israeli security establishment.”

Weissglas recalls that “at the beginning of this decade, when the rampage of Palestinian terrorism was at its peak, Israel’s fundamental condition for negotiations was a cessation of terrorism and violence. The current Palestinian government has delivered those goods. It behooves Israel, as such, to make every effort to ensure the continued existence of that government… The worst of all will be if the Palestinians come to believe that a sincere effort to eradicate terrorism does nothing to change Israel’s position, and that no political progress will ever be made in any event.”

Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh bemoans Israel’s failure to engage with Abbas when he succeeded Yasser Arafat in January 2005: “The Israeli government did not take advantage of this development. The withdrawal from Gaza was not handed to Abbas as a gesture which could have greatly strengthened his position vis-a-vis Hamas. Instead, Gaza was handed to Hamas, unilaterally, and we all know what the consequences were.

“The conduct of Abbas, the most courageous partner we have had, is in large measure a by-product of our missed opportunities,” writes Sneh in Sunday’s Haaretz. “It is the result of an arrogance and lack of interest in what is happening within the PA, just five kilometers from the Israeli prime minister’s office in Jerusalem. Abbas’ withdrawal from his leading role in contacts with Israel is good news for anyone who fears a solution to the conflict and anyone not ready to pay the price. For everyone else who still understands the world in which we live, and who fears for the fate of the Jewish state, this is a wake-up call.”

Abbas is a deeply flawed leader. What leader isn’t deeply flawed? But if he and Fayyad –along with the Arab leaders who have proferred a peace initiative– are not partners for peace, where in the world do Israeli leaders believe they are going to find such partners?


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