Abbas: The lost president

Abbas: The lost president
Comment: Netanyahu's latest rejection of a two-state solution can only deepen the crisis facing Mahmoud Abbas. After years of diplomatic inertia, is patience running out in the West Bank?
5 min read
19 Mar, 2015
Mahmoud Abbas has few options remaining [Getty]
Binyamin Netanyahu said it: there is no room for a two-state solution in historic Palestine. This is nothing new - Netanyahu simply expressed what every reasonable observer already knew and confirmed the reality of Israeli practices on the ground.

The response of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), came through its chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

"Netanyahu's track record during his time in power proves that he has always been against a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians, which is clear through his continued occupation and settlement expansion policies," he said.

So the problem is Netanyahu, as if the same policies had not been followed by every one of his precessors.

Netanyahu's remarks have served chiefly to deepen the crisis facing his "peace process" partner, President Mahmoud Abbas, who had rejected all options other than negotiations. Abbas did not support armed resistance, even when it was at its peak, and overtly expressed his support for negotiations with "the enemy" at a time when this view was considered treasonous.

Talks that never come

Abbas has done everything possible to revive peace talks, starting by making a halt in settlement building - not the dismantling of settlements - a condition for a return to the negotiating table.

In this, he believed that he had political cover from the White House. But, as he he soon discovered, "someone covered by the Americans is as good as naked", as the modern Egyptian proverb has it.

Thereafter, Abbas reduced the ceiling of demands to the release of a fourth wave of veteran prisoners, as agreed, in return for a resumption of talks. Netanyahu did not even meet this meagre demand. Today, Abbas who had said "negotiations are our first, second and third choice", sits waiting for the fourth consecutive year.
     After more than 20 years since the start of the 'peace process', Abbas and his team are no longer able to sell people fantasies

Time is passing, land is being grabbed and Jerusalem is suffering "Israelification".

The Palestinian state's response drifts ever further from the reality that has been imposed by Israel on the ground.

And this is assuming that there is someone in Israel who would still accept the formation of a Palestinian state even without sovereignty.

In the face of this bitter reality, and instead of admitting the failure of his diplomatic strategy, not to mention his personal failure, and instead of stepping aside and taking his pathetic team with him, President Abbas then tells us that he is not short of options and surprises - which he will, apprently, make public if Netanyahu continues with his arrogance.

First out of his magic hat was Palestine's application to become a member-state of the United Nations in September 2011.

Then came the application to become a non-member-state at the UN, followed by applications to join international bodies such as the International Criminal Court amid calls in Palestine for "popular resistance".

All the while, the Palestinian Authority's security forces prevent protesters from approaching Israeli checkpoints and settlements, perhaps because Abbas understands "popular resistance" to mean demonstrations outside the UN and Red Cross headquarters.

Finally comes Abbas' latest manoeuvre: the threat to end security cooperation with Israel.

Spectacular failure

Now I can only affirm that all the aforementioned steps are good and should be undertaken. But they have to be given the weight they deserve.

They are supporting factors which can aid the central Palestinian struggle, which is clearly the resistance of the occupied people against the occupier.

All the steps currently taken by the Palestinian Authority amount to an attempt to shift what is marginal to the centre.

The president's team and media supporters have presented Abbas' unsuccessful moves since the stalling of negotiations as major accomplishments, acts of liberation in their own right, in order to try and hide the spectacular failure of his strict "negotiations only" programme and the catastrophic Madrid-Oslo process.

Years of suspended talks have made Abbas attempt choices that don't suit him, that don't fit his political or ideological outlook.

How can we believe that a person who neglected to follow up on the preliminary decision of the International Court of Justice on the Wall will carry through Palestine's application to the International Criminal Court?

Even the Central Committee's recent decision to stop security coordination with Israel was explained as being due to Israel not upholding agreements signed between the two parties.

And it will probably be reversed once Israel resumes the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.

Even this is assuming that there was ever a real intention to implement the move, as the PLO's Executive Committee has not yet even scheduled a meeting to follow up on the Central Committee's recommendation.

After more than 20 years since the start of the inauspicious "peace process", Abbas and his team are no longer able to sell people fantasies.

The political acrobatics and manoeuvres no longer fool the Palestinian people, who have by now seen it all. People have reached the end of their collective tether.

Circumstances are ripe for an explosion in the West Bank, as is confirmed by leaked Israeli security reports. When the popular explosion does occur, it will defiantly be targeted against the occupation. But on its way it will sweep away what is left of the legitimacy of the lost president and his team.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.