To stay alive, both in real, physical terms as well as politically, Mahmoud Abbas, the reputed leader of the so-called Palestinian people (or at least the segment thereof which resides in the fiefdom ruled for the time being from Ramallah), crucially needs Ehud Olmert. Without Olmert's indulgence, Abbas is a goner.
Indeed no single individual is more important to Abbas than Olmert. The very proclaimed readiness of Israel's premier to parley with the Fatah front man and cede to him the heartland on which this country's future survival and security hinge constitutes Abbas's only source of clout. Extracting concessions from Olmert is all that Abbas has to sell his own minions and the foreign dupes who prop him up as America's and Europe's great hope for peace.
Bargaining with Olmert, therefore, is as life-sustaining a function for Abbas as breathing. The same goes for his Fatah faction, now applauded globally as the "good terrorist" outfit. Common sense would consequently dictate that Fatah should be supremely interested in winning Olmert's confidence and boosting the pretense of a negotiating process. Only via ostensible mutual accommodation can Fatah elicit the strategic assets it hankers after.
Nonetheless, precisely those Fatah fellows assigned to protect Olmert during his summertime palaver in Jericho (the Palestinians' most "peaceful" venue) actually planned to bump him off.
Israelis surprised by the revelation fall prey to excessively non-Levantine logical assumptions. They fail to understand that our concepts of rational levelheadedness don't apply in Fatahland.
Nobody has any business being the least bit taken aback. Abbas and Fatah haven't changed. They only switched to cloying sweet talk in the Western idiom, which suffices to make them sound trustworthy - as trustworthy as the scorpion in the fable attributed to old Aesop.
Said scorpion had to traverse a wide and swift stream. There was no way for him to negotiate the current, but then he spied a frog sunning itself on a lily pad near the other bank. "Yoo-hoo, Mr. Frog," hallooed the scorpion across the water, "would you kindly ferry me on your back?" The frog was nobody's fool, and answered the scorpion that any contact with him was tantamount to courting death.
The scorpion, however, was persuasive: "Am I likely to sting while riding on you in the middle of a deep river? I can't swim and would drown. I'm not going to kill myself, am I?"
The skeptical frog, though, needed further security guarantees. "You might try something when I'm close to shore," he noted.
"Ooh," crooned the eager-to-please scorpion, "once you've helped me out, I'd be ever-so-grateful, and hardly likely to reward you with violence. Peace would reign between us always, even among our progeny."
The allure of a long-lasting true peace swayed Mr. Frog, who made his way to the scorpion, let his new peace partner hop on, and paddled obligingly back. The further he moved, the more complacent he grew about his well-behaved passenger, who obviously had very existential reasons to exercise prudence. All this time the scorpion eyed the frog's soft glistening hide. It drove him crazy; he itched to plunge his stinger into that pulsating flesh. Yet, knowing it'd kill him too, he controlled himself with every residue of willpower at his disposal.
But his self-discipline proved lacking. In one fateful second it all became too much. The frog felt a sharp prick. Deadly torpor diffused and numbed his limbs.
"You're crazy," he screamed with his remaining strength, "now we'll both die. Why did you do this?"
Just before they sank together, the scorpion, filled with triumphant glee, exclaimed: "I couldn't help myself; it's my nature. I can't change who I am."
NEITHER CAN Fatah. That's why its hotshots couldn't resist an attempt to terminate the very Israeli chump on whose goodwill they depend. That's why, even after Israelis foiled the plot, Fatah's top echelon succumbed to its all-consuming urge to release the miscreants. Fatah's entire hierarchy thereby assumes culpability for the assassination scheme hatched against the very interlocutor whom it should cherish most.
With that one ill-considered, instinctive treachery, Fatah honchos demonstrated how impervious to reform they are. What was is still what is. They still seethe with implacable enmity toward Israel, still tolerate terror and still rebuff genuine compromise - their honeyed blandishments for Condoleezza's consumption notwithstanding. The only difference between Abbas and his double-dealing predecessor Yasser Arafat is the fact that Abbas is clean-shaven, bespectacled, wears custom-tailored suits and walks around sans pistol. That's enough to endear him to the EU and the US State Department.
Even so, a scorpion in any guise remains a scorpion.
This is the scorpion with whom Olmert vows to keep hashing out the handover of the hills which overlook Israel's elongated urban sprawl, control its lone international airport and contain indispensable water resources. Abbas & Crew can be as trusted to surmount the temptation to rain rockets on population centers, target anything that moves inside Israel, bring down jetliners and turn off our water taps as the scorpion was to resist piercing the frog's skin.
Yet there's not even a trace hint of rethinking anything in Israel's high places. There's no reawakening, woefully belated though it'd be. Not only is Olmert continuing to merrily dance with scorpions, but some in his cabinet exhort him to usher Hamas too into Condi's lavishly choreographed Annapolis ball. According to our newest portfolio-deficient minister, Ami Ayalon, no terrorist deserves to be excluded.
Ayalon may have a point. Fatah's and Hamas's ultimate goals are indistinguishable. The difference between them boils down to whom Fatah released and Hamas arrested. Word has it that Gaza's overlords have seized four wretches and charged them with the crime of having aided Israel in attempts to track down abducted Gilad Schalit. That should be no transgression, considering that Hamas declares it had nothing to do with the kidnapping - just like Fatah had nothing to do with the assassination plot.