Abbas and Sarcozy backs 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s credibility has been damaged to
a point where it’s hard to envision a situation where he would be able to
convince even a handful of Palestinians to accept any agreement he strikes with
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It’s Abbas’s repeated zigzagging, double-talk and empty threats
that have been most devastating for him.
This week, with the expiration
of the moratorium on settlement construction, Abbas’s credibility suffered yet
another severe, if not fatal, blow. For months, he had been threatening
to walk out of the peace talks if the 10-month freeze, which expired on
September 26, was not extended. In fact, he continued to issue his threats until
the last minute.
Only hours before the moratorium expired, Abbas went on
the record to declare that “we won’t continue with the negotiations even
day after the settlement freeze ends.”
Not surprisingly, at the same time
that he was threatening, in Arabic, to pull out of the talks, the
message he and
his aides were sending, in English, to Washington and Western
that they had no intention of suspending the negotiations.
visit to the US last week, Abbas was quoted on more than one occasion as
indicating that even if the construction in the settlements resumed, he
not withdraw from the talks. These statements did not appear in the
official Palestinian media, where editors and journalists receive
and salaries from the PA government.
To many Palestinians, it’s now
obvious that Abbas will eventually continue with the talks even as the
bulldozers are working in the settlements. His threat, like previous
ones, has once again proven to be an empty one.
Those who have been
following Abbas for years have become accustomed to hearing him say one
and do the opposite. Until a few weeks ago, Abbas had threatened that he
wouldn’t enter direct talks until the government of Binyamin Netanyahu
the two-state solution, recognized the 1967 line as the border of a
state and promised to refrain from building in the settlements.
end, he entered direct talks without having any of his conditions
has defended his decision by arguing that he had come under heavy
the Americans and Europeans.
Before that, there was another threat that
Abbas had made – that he wouldn’t enter indirect talks unless the
government agreed to launch the talks from the point where they had
late 2008 during the era of former prime minister Ehud Olmert. In the
course, Abbas did launch indirect talks.
Abbas’s threats go back all the
way to the days when he was Yasser Arafat’s No. 2. Then, he and his
used to quarrel almost every day, sometimes over the most trivial
as where Abbas would be seated during official dinners. Tensions between
the two reached their peak less than a decade ago, when Arafat appointed
as PA prime minister. From day one, Abbas started complaining that
trying to undermine his powers.
Back then, Abbas did what he does best:
He threatened to resign – and that was the only time he actually carried
threat. Since then, he has been making similar threats at least once or
The threats are often directed toward the US administration and
Western donors. Abbas’s message: Give me more money and political
backing or I
He threatened to quit of the Americans and Europeans did not support him
power struggle with Hamas. He threatened to dismantle the PA if the West
put enough pressure on Israel. Before his term in office expired in
January 2009, Abbas threatened to quit if Hamas did not allow new
and legislative elections in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas’s decision this week
to withhold his threat to walk out of the peace talks for another week
did not come as surprise to many Palestinians. “We’re used to this type
of zigzagging,” complained a Fatah legislator in Ramallah. “How can
this man seriously after all these empty threats?”
Abbas is good not only at
issuing threats, but also in avoiding responsibility. He is now doing
has done in the past year – leaving it up to others to decide for him.
responsibility, he has requested an “urgent” meeting of Arab League
ministers to discuss the repercussions of the resumption of settlement
construction and whether the PA should continue talking to Israel or
Abbas wants the Arab ministers to do what they did in the past,
namely to give him a ladder to climb down from the high tree. They are
undoubtedly expected to “authorize” Abbas to continue with the
This way he could justify the U-turn in his position by arguing
that he has a mandate from the Arab world to continue with the talks
even as the
construction in the settlements continues.
Abbas’s defense is now based
on the argument that he went to the talks only because of US and
pressure and he’s continuing to sit at the negotiating table only
Arab brothers gave him a green light to do so. With such arguments and
threats, it would be impossible to find one Palestinian who would buy
agreement that Abbas brings home.