Abu Mazen and the refugees I

The Abbas episode reinforced Israeli skepticism about the credibility of a grand bargain with the Palestinians.

By AMIEL UNGAR
November 14, 2012 13:50
1 minute read.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Channel 2

Mahmoud Abbas on Channel 2. (photo credit: Screenshot)

 
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Most of those attempting to unseat the center-right coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have opted to define the electoral battleground on socioeconomic and other domestic issues, while steering clear of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

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Labor Party chair Shelly Yacimovich signaled this approach early on in the belief that the Arab-Israeli conflict was not susceptible to a solution in the near term, and that therefore one could, at best, hope for conflict management rather than conflict resolution. With missiles flying from Gaza, the deteriorating security situation in the Sinai and the growing skepticism about the Islamist Spring, this approach demonstrated political wisdom. To judge by the polls Yacimovich has been rewarded and Labor has witnessed an impressive resurgence.

In an attempt to reinject the Palestinian issue back into the Israeli political debate, the Palestine Authority’s interminable President Mahmoud Abbas, (whose term has long expired), gave an interview to Israel’s 2nd TV channel in which he hinted at flexibility on the right of return of Palestinian refugees to sovereign Israel. He would like to visit his native Safed (from where seven generations of my family hail), but does not intend to live there. Abbas (Abu Mazen) also appeared to accept Israel within the 1967 borders.

His performance was reminiscent of the farce during Yasser Arafat’s time surrounding the spurious revocation of the Palestinian National Covenant, which was also calculated to influence an Israeli election (in 1996). Unlike Abbas, Arafat at least commanded sufficient authority to persist with the charade. Abbas, the Duke of Ramallah, was forced to turn his back Saturday on the political feint that he had made on Friday, telling the Egyptian Al Hayat channel, “It is not possible for anyone to give up the right of return.”

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