June 22, 2007

Last Chance For Abbas

As usual, Charles Krauthammer hits the nail squarely on the head in today's column on Mahmoud Abbas. Krauthammer generally agrees with the policy of engagement with Abbas in the wake of the Hamas uprising in Gaza, but he warns people not to get too excited. Abbas has not exactly built a track record of success as a leader:

But let's remember who Abbas is. He appears well intentioned, but he is afflicted with near-disastrous weaknesses. He controls little. His troops in Gaza simply collapsed against the greatly outnumbered forces of Hamas. His authority in the West Bank is far from universal. He does not even control the various factions within Fatah.

But the greater liability is his character. He is weak and indecisive. When he was Yasser Arafat's deputy, Abbas was known to respond to being slapped down by his boss by simply disappearing for weeks in a sulk. During the battle for Gaza, he did not order his Fatah forces to return fire against the Hamas insurrection until the fight was essentially over. Remember, too, that after Arafat's death Abbas ran the Palestinian Authority without a Hamas presence for more than a year. Can you name a single thing he achieved in that time?

Moreover, his Fatah party is ideologically spent and widely discredited. Historian Michael Oren points out that the Palestinian Authority has received more per capita aid than did Europe under the Marshall Plan. This astonishing largess has disappeared into lavish villas for party bosses and guns for the multiple militias Arafat established.

However, as Krauthammer notes, Abbas is not Hamas, either. Egypt and Israel recognize this and have jumped at the chance to prop Abbas up, mindful of the alternatives. It's bad enough for both nations that Hamas has seized Gaza, but it would be disastrous for Israel, Egypt, and Jordan if Hamas takes control of the West Bank. At the moment, Abbas is their only real alternative, and they want to make sure that any movement from Abbas comes in the direction of moderates and not radicals.

Egypt made a smart move in this regard by inviting Jordan and Israel to meet with Abbas in Egypt in order to renew a push towards a peace plan. It isolates Hamas -- which Egypt fears for its connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist opposition to Mubarak. Egypt has a very large interest in seeing Hamas fail for that reason, and may start finally taking action on the Gaza border because of it. Mubarak wants to see the moderates succeed in the West Bank in order to discredit Hamas in Gaza, and hopefully have the Palestinians overthrow Hamas in the long run.

However, Abbas has to prove this time that he can deliver -- and Israel should insist in solid timetables for reform and verification of progress. The West gave Yasser Arafat a pass on both at Oslo in 1993, and as a result nothing changed in 14 years. Arafat gave Hamas the opening by calling for intifadas and radicalizing the Palestinians even further than before, making them open to Islamist influence. Without benchmarks of progress this time around, Abbas will likely do nothing but buy off his opponents in the West Bank and shoot those who refuse.

We have an opportunity for real progress, at least in the West Bank. It may not have a great chance of success, but as Krauthammer argues, it's worth pursuing to see what we can gain.


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Comments (12)

Posted by LeaningRt | June 22, 2007 8:11 AM

Look, the key word here is "isolate" Hamas. To real cause damage to Hamas, Egypt has to cut off supply lines to Gaza. They have resisted this move in the past because they didn't want to appear to be working against Palestine. But this is no longer Palestine, it's Hamastine and Egypt can appear to be for the Palestinians while still causing damage to Hamas. Same with Israel....they'll look far less like bullies when the respond in full force to rockets being launched by Hamas from Gaza.

Also, Abbas may be weak, but I truly believe he wants a peaceful existance with Israel, something that can not be said about Arafat....I don't care much for that comparison. Hamas being isolated in Gaza will have a positive impact on the region.

Posted by Brad | June 22, 2007 8:39 AM

On and on and on it goes, violence, turmoil, lunacy--not matter the party, the leader, the era. Cut all of Palestine off and let them rub each out. Whatever aid goes in there will be used to enrich lunatics and shoot Israel. These people suck. Let 'em rot. They voted for Hell and they got it.

Posted by Scott | June 22, 2007 10:43 AM

I really think this is the Palis' last chance. If Abbas cannot procede with a peaceful society in the WB, then all bets for a Pali state are off.

As for Gaza, Israel holds all the cards. As Dr K says, Israel can turn off the gas. (in fact, I heard that they are going to cut off gas for everything except the main power plant. This will mean no gas for trucks and cars.)

If Hamas keeps firing rockets, the next step is turning off the electricity in Gaza.

If Hamas wants to spend years living with no gasoline and no electricity, it's fine with me.

The party is over. All the illusions have been shattered. Either Abbas makes a go of it, PEACEFULLY in the WB, or Israel might as well annex the land it wants and be done with it.

Posted by T-Mont | June 22, 2007 10:56 AM

Getting behind Abbas will be another disaster in a long list of Bush blunders. Fatah has been stealing from the Palestinian people for decades. Hamas' democratic victory was the beginning of the end for Fatah. Turning on their fellow Palestinians in Gaza, at the request of the US and Israel, seals the deal. Fatah is done. Getting behind Fatah exposes this administration's profound lack of understanding. I wouldn't expect anything less from them. This policy is doomed. Bush's hypocrisy, refusing to recognize the democratic choice of the Palestinian people while claiming to champion democracy, is tragically obvious to any honest observer.

Posted by SkyWatch | June 22, 2007 12:05 PM

I really hope that backing Fatah brings at least a little peace for awhile. However, it was not very long ago everyone on this very blog was talking about how Fatah, Hamas and what ever the other ones name is were triangulating their attacks on Israel. Two would declare peace and the other would launch attacks. Fatah was a part of that. Over and over again and again on and on..............

Please forgive me for not believing Fatah is any better then Hamas. They just got wooped so they will take a break and rebuild then attack again.

I will even say a little prayer that they decide to give peace a chance but ....

Posted by Philip | June 22, 2007 12:52 PM

I think the window of opportunity is very, very small. Abbas and the PA must figuratively crush Hamas - they will never co-exist as has been proven in the last few weeks. He really only has one card to play - peace. He only had one issue holding him back - the threat of civil war. He must declare and sign a peace treaty at the very conclusion of the Egypt summit. If he waits or dithers his chance will be gone. The planets have just lined up for him - he must seize this day. Look for a comprehensive peace deal very, very soon.

Posted by Carol Herman | June 22, 2007 1:46 PM

Nope. Abbas is a long term player. And, of all things, Qatar was one of the 4 states that threw in a black ball. Meaning? The guy lives in Doha! And, the double-game the arabs play will have Abbas in the picture for a long, long time.

Perhaps, it's just better to know that gaza and the west bank arabs ARE NOT THE SAME! I just learned that fact, today.

But the west bank arabs had been jordanian. Held citizenship, etc. Until the war in 1967, where Amman lost this slice. Including jerusalem.

Those in gazoo? Different familiies. And, the two are "not in touch." They don't go from one place to the other; even if you supply them with tunnels.

Do you know why? Because eygpt controlled gazoo. And, those arabs have different tribes.

All the lies, they just keep piling up.

Meanwhile, there's an excellent book out there: FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS. The problems exist in the human brain. We want things to be linear. To go in steps. And, that's not the nature of things.

So, for guessing outcomes? You might as well just go and flip a coin.

Yes, America has enemies. RIGHT HERE! The entire DC establishment is Bonkey.

And, unfortunately for us; the Bush family is Soddie inspired.

Whie in Israel, when they look at various despots; they see that the "arabs like it that way." And, it's better to have an Assad, than a Saudi, in charge. So, the Realtor for the Sauds, if we're lucky, is just chatting up hot air.

Till January 20, 2009.

Oh, while I'm at it. I think Trent Lott is an idiot. When he has 60 votes, I think he's a big fat liar.

How do I handle this? I shrug a lot. And, I don't turn on my TV. Nor do I get a paper delivery to my driveway. Intstead? I stay tuned in at a few Internet sites. And, I tap away. Hope it helps.

Posted by Anthony (Los Angeles) | June 22, 2007 2:32 PM

Let's bear in mind that Abbas and the PLO are "moderates" only in relation to the drooling Islamists of Hamas. The destruction of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the Jews are their goals, too, ones they've never really renounced. (Sure, they signed Oslo recognizing Israel, but look at what's taught in their schools.)

I agree with Krauthammer that we should try exploit the opportunities this has given us, but we should this time demand that the Palestinians *really* live up to their ingredients, and not just shovel aid to them in an unending string of "maybe this time" second chances.

Posted by Carol Herman | June 22, 2007 2:49 PM

Peel away all the sham labels. This whole set up is paid for by the Soddies.

The way they think you're getting choices, though? It's just like out congress critters; when you no longer can even tell apart party-affiliations ... To see the wonder of how you can keep the stage filled with props.

Israel does NOT want any more arabs! Won't take a piece of Lebanon. Doesn't want gazoo. And, the West Bankers, if you add them into the number of arabs already in Israel, wallah. Israel no longer exists. Because she's a democracy. And, she hands out citizenship rights.

As to Abbas? He's just vaudeville. It's alive, but the audiences no longer sit in the seats.

We haven't gotten news reports ever since the White House shut down its bully pulpit.

But the truth? It makes the Internet strong.

Posted by hadsil | June 22, 2007 8:20 PM

"We have an opportunity for real progress, at least in the West Bank."

Let's see if finally they do fail to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Posted by Mike | June 22, 2007 10:04 PM

Last chance for Abbas? Hardly. Once the State Department--of any administraton--latches onto a terrorist despot, they never let them go. How could they when they've invested all of their credibility--such as it is--in treating with them in the first place?

Unfortunately, President Bush's recent statements on such matters does not give on confidence that he'll be different than Bill Clinton, with the possible exception of letting Abbas repeatedly sleep in the Lincoln bedroom.

Posted by SkyWatch | June 23, 2007 10:04 AM

I kinda agree with Mike,

Last chance ? How many last chances do we give?

I want peace but do they?

History says no.

But we can not pass the chance up to try. We just need to be careful for a change and not fund the government itself. Fund the projects like maybe a few concrete/asphalt plants. Then water and sewer.