A new chapter opened in the troubled history of the Middle East as the dovish Mahmud Abbas replaced the late Yasser Arafat and a new Israeli government that will give up the Gaza Strip was due to be ushered in.
The moderate former premier’s projected landslide presidential victory was due to be officially confirmed on Monday, granting him the legitimacy he needs to yank the peace process out of dormancy and resume talks with Israel.
Commenting on Abbas’ crushing victory in Sunday’s Palestinian race, Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei said it was “a triumph for our people who have chosen the path of peace, democracy and national unity.”
Dove? Moderate? Perhaps when compared to Arafat. But according to today’s Maariv, Abbas recently funnelled $100,000 to wanted terrorists, lest we fail to mention his recent quip about the “Zionist enemy.” The result? Can’t be too sure just yet, but I got a message relayed from the Sachnut today informing me to keep away from downtown Jerusalem, where the streets are currently crawling with soldiers and security personnel. Yay, progress.
[Update] I feel like I need to qualify this, because I don’t like the pessimism the above comments reflect. I really am hopeful that Abbas will be the guy to break through to his people and finally, after so many years of conflict, bring peace, stability, and economic opportunity to Palestine. And I think he’s capable of doing it — certainly more so than Yassir Arafat was.
Part of pushing that agenda forward may be invoking popular Palestinian rhetoric in order to win the trust of his people, and that I can understand. But I don’t like politicians who lie: I think leaders should be forthcoming and honest with their people, and if Abbas is lying to his people, it sets a bad precedent. He ought to be speaking honestly, as opposed to inevitably worsening matters by using shady political tactics to deceive his people into supporting him. Of course, easier said than done, as the climate in the occupied territories is not necessarily one conducive towards free political speech.
Conversely, if he isn’t lying, then what are we to expect from him? He’s already been dubbed “Arafat in a suit.” If he really means what he’s saying about Israel, and he begins to make a habit out of funnelling money to terrorists (other than to pay them off so they don’t assassinate him for making progress) I don’t have much faith in him nor hope for the future of the Palestinian people, and I believe that Israel will become ever more justified in acting unilaterally to secure itself and defend its people.
I would rather see a bilateral peace achieved than one which ignores the interests of the other. And for that to happen, Abbas really needs to step up to the plate and prove that he’s not pushing a “from the river to the sea” agenda, and find a way for that to be okay with his people, as well.
Good luck there though, obviously.