Benjamin Netanyahu Hamas Israel Israeli occupation Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority Palestinians

U.S.-Israel relationship will survive, but what about Abbas?

This current tiff between Israel and the U.S. over settlements in East Jerusalem will probably blow over soon. The bonds between Israel and the U.S. are too tight to be unravelled. But Israel’s provocative behavior might be weakening Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Anyone who wants an end to this conflict should be furious about that possibility.

Abbas is trying to gain short-term diplomatic advantage by reneging on his participation in American-sponsored proximity talks, according to the
Christian Science Monitor and many other sources. But he and Fayyad must be alarmed at the long-term implications of this crisis. Haaretz notes that:

In one sense, PA leaders benefited from the construction plans: They scored a clear victory over Israel in the diplomatic arena. But they are also very aware of the long-term harm this incident could cause them among the Palestinian public: While most Palestinians are deeply skeptical that peace talks with Israel will produce any results, Fatah, the PA’s ruling party, has made the peace process its signature policy.

Thus they fear the new construction will further weaken Fatah’s status among the Palestinian public, to the benefit of the rival Hamas party, which opposes peace talks.

Fortunately, Palestinian security forces helped to keep a damper on violent protests in the territories during the Day of Rage called by Hamas yesterday. According to Ali Waked:

The alert declared Tuesday among Palestinian security forces, especially among the police forces deployed throughout Palestinian Authority cities, sends a clear message. The PA is not interested as of now in a conflict of any sort with Israel – not a “rock intifada,” not “popular resistance,” and certainly not armed conflict.

But every provocative action in Jerusalem strikes at the heart of the quiet, determined, and resolutely peaceful Palestinian state-building that Abbas and Fayyad are championing. If they lose the already limited, skeptical backing they have in the territories, then Israel will have Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and al Queda) to deal with. That is the biggest danger looming from Netanyahu’s inability or unwillingness to impose discipline on the right wingers in his government.

7 thoughts on “U.S.-Israel relationship will survive, but what about Abbas?

  1. Abbas “being weakened”? That’s a laugh. This excuse has been used by Palestinian leaders for decades, starting with Arafat in order to avoid carrying out their committments to peace with Israel. “We have to support him because the alternatives are worse”, “we have to support him because he is weak and if we don’t give him goodies and unilateral concessions, he will fall and HAMAS will come in”. This is all NONSENSE! Abbas is riding high and no one is challenging him.
    Neither HAMAS nor the FATAH-controlled Palestinian Authority has any intention of reaching a true peace-agreement with Israel. There is no difference in long-range goals between them. However, the PA is committed to a nominal policy of having “peace negotiations” with Israel for their own purposes, the prime one being keeping US and EU money flowing into their pockets (“If you cut aid because we are not honoring the Oslo Agreements we will fall and HAMAS will come in!”). So they keep babbling about their committment to the so-called “peace process” and the Americans keep coughing up the money. This can go on indefinitely, and apparently will.
    I believe that Abbas thinks the HAMAS coup in taking over the Gaza Strip is the best thing that ever happened to him. After HAMAS won the Palestinian elections and took the Prime Minister’s office, aid and support from the US and EU was endangered, but when HAMAS took control of Gaza and Fayyad was installed as PM (he is the pleasant face of the PA) and the money started flowing in again…and Abbas could always point to Gaza and say “you have to support me no matter what I do ’cause you don’t want THEM back).

    So this farce just goes on and on. Forget the “peace process”. There never was one and isn’t now.

  2. I see this myth that Netanyahu is “unable or unwilling to impose discipline on ‘right-wing’ elements in his government”. I fail to understand what this nonsensicle statement means.
    Jews moved into the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood (Sheikh Jarrah). They moved in according to a court decision. Totally legal. What does this have to do with “right-wing elements”? The rebuilt Hurva synagogue was rededicated this week in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, leading to the Arab “day of rage” and large-scale disorder. This was a project approved by the government years ago. I saw with my own eyes Arab workers building the synagogue. What does this have to do with “undisciplined ‘right-wingers'”? Maybe the reference was to the announcement of the Ramat Shlomo building project? This project is not new either and even if the annoucement was made before or after Biden’s visit, Obama’s gang would have whined about it anyway. Simply opportunity to score points with Obama’s Muslim brothers.

    I am sorry, but even Leftist Yaron Dekel of the HaKol Diburim radio show said that the elections show that the majority of the population of Israel is Center-Right. The Left suffered a devastating defeat in the last election, and really has not been a majority since 1996. Most Israelis oppose dividing Jerusalem so Netanyahu is carrying out a policy that has clear majority support and, unlike what Jewish Leftists in the US (and in the New York Times in particular) are claiming that only “right-wing religious extremists care about Jerusalem, most Israelis will oppose destroying (which is which “dividing the city” means) Jerusalem.

  3. Dan,
    I don’t care so much about Abbas’ possible political demise, because he has done nothing to end Fatah’s problems and has very little personal or clan support. He, therefore, has no ability to sell moderation and can’t afford to make major concessions to meet the concessions that he is demanding of Israel. If Salam Fayyad were to be forced out of his position this would be a pity as he seems to be doing a decent job of practical state building.

    YBD:
    I’ve been spending this week reading Israel Eldad’s Lehi memoir, “The First Tithe,” which I requested and received as a Christmas present. I was interested in it for a number of reasons. First, there is very little in English on the Lehi and I was hoping to understand more about the organization. Second, I hoped to gain a better insight into Begin and Shamir–two major figures from the 1977-92 period. Third, I hoped to gain some insight into the mind of an extremist. I have finished the first four of five parts and expect to finish it tomorrow or Friday. So I’ll let you know what he says about socialists in Lehi–so far he hasn’t said much other than blaming Natan Yellin-Mor for the failure of Lehi to reunite with Etzel. I think that you would probably enjoy the book–published in Jerusalem in both Hebrew and English. He has some very interesting information on relations between Lehi, Etzel, and the Hagana/Palmakh.

    By the way, the Left (in reality the Center-Left) had at least a plurality if not a majority in 1999. But admittedly the Likud is the natural “dominant” party in Israel (although Israeli political scientists contend that Israel has lacked a dominant party since 1977 when Labor lost that position).

  4. Tom-
    I have not read Eldad’s book. How is it? Eldad did not think much of Begin the politician already in the early 1950’s. Begin pushed out all the top intellectual and potential leadership figures in the Herut party early on, this includes Eri Jabotinsky, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Hillel Kook, and later, Shmuel Tamir and Shmuel Katz. He wanted a party of yes-men. This lead in a straight-line to the Likud betraying its voters regarding Gush Katif. On the other hand, Katz, who opposed the peace treaty with Egypt, held that Begin was superb as leader of the ETZEL.

  5. YBD,

    The only thing that he says of Begin much was his romanticism–which he attributes to his Polish education–and his legal formalism especially in regard to his failure to desert from Anders’ army in 1942-43, waiting instead to get a formal discharge before he would agree to take over the Etzel. On Shamir he claims that he was a micro-manager who was unable to delegate satisfactorily and that this slowed down the growth of Lehi in comparison with Etzel.

    I think that Begin was much more of a political realist than either Eldad or Yellin-Mor. Eldad had a very strong mystical streak that was evident in both his memoirs and his career as editor of Sulam. But Eldad is very open about his own faults as he perceives them–such as his lack of security before his capture. Apparently Begin had offered to make Eldad responsible for propoganda and education within Etzel if the two movements reunited. Eldad attributes Yellin-Mor’s opposition to unification as due to his decision to join the Left after the underground. I think it is more likely that Yellin resisted because he knew he wouldn’t have a major role within a unified organization.

  6. Dan’s conclusions are accurate from my read.

    I think Fayyad is the more critical player than Abbas at this point though. The most important feature of Palestinian leadership is who gets handed the mantle.

    Yakov’s criticism and exagerated interpretation of any Palestinian internal political posturing is at best immature.

    It is the positions that conflict. Yakov seems to want Israel and Israelis to be able to continue to settle and expand settlements as Israeli political territory (not private, not Jewish).

    The consequences of that approach are that 50% of the population of the region are then deprived of self-governance, whether as peers within Israel or as peers within Palestine.

    Truth is only knowable as truth when addressed from multiple perspectives. Its like looking at a poster and saying “that is the image of a man”. It is from a single perspective. From the perspective of someone standing on the side, its a very thin man.

    “Jerusalem is Israel’s”, is true from one vantage, but not from multiple. “The land may be confiscated” is true from one vantage, but not from multiple.

    Its important to shift one’s perspective, to see from other than the habitual, to see from others’ logic, even if you end up concluding similarly to prior.

  7. I read these postings often. I comment on them rarely. But occasionally I feel compelled to comment. This quote speaks to my take on this discussion… “Truth is only knowable as truth when addressed from multiple perspectives.”
    Thank you for the wise words.

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