Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Abbas Probably Never Saw It Coming

From May of last year:
PA official: Abbas wants US to oust Netanyahu

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not resume negotiations with Israel unless the Netanyahu government agrees to a complete settlement freeze and publicly accepts a two-state solution, Abbas has told The Washington Post in an interview.

Abbas meets with Obama in Washington; Israelis, Palestinians react to talks
And since he does not believe Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will lift his opposition on these issues, Abbas and his leadership expect American pressure to gradually force Netanyahu out of office, the paper reported on Friday. "It will take a couple of years," it quoted one of Abbas's officials as saying.
At this rate, it make take a good deal more than 2 years--not that Abbas hasn't tried.
Not that he tried by showing good faith. Heavens no! He tried the way he has tried in the past--

From October, last year:
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. President Barack Obama that he intends to resign his post, Channel 10 television reported on Monday.

According to the report, the Palestinian leader told Obama during a telephone conversation last week that he sees no chance of advancing the peace process with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power.
This is something that has worked in the past, especially when Olmert was the prime minister. How many times was Israel asked to make concessions in order to increase Abbas's stature in the eyes of the Palestinian Arabs?

For that matter, how many times did those concessions actually help him?

Abbas has actually gone out on a limb, making demands that must be unconditionally fulfilled before he will even return to the bargaining table:
Abbas said that he would be prepared to resume direct talks if Israel halted all settlement construction for three months and accepted the June 1967 borders. "These are not preconditions, they are requirements in the road map. If they are not prepared to do that, it means they don't want a political solution," he said in an interview with the newspaper.
In any case, it appears that now pressure is now being applied by the US--but not on Israel:
Well-informed official French sources have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that US Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, has called for French and European officials to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table with the Israelis.

The source that spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity revealed that Mitchell was taking a "hard-line" position towards the Palestinians, as he believed that "the time has come to stop finding excuses" for refusing to sit down at the negotiations table. The French official source also quoted Mitchell as saying that the Palestinians "are content" with the current situation, which they believe is less risky than returning to negotiations without securing international guarantees.
If this is true, then we are seeing something that was not done even under the Bush administration--applying real pressure on Abbas to negotiate, or at the very least drop the absurd preconditions to negotiation and come to the bargaining table.

This is not to say that Abbas, even if he does give in and come back to the table, will suddenly become a real peace partner and actually negotiate--but the very idea that the US would apply pressure to Abbas is something new, and refreshing.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Obama administration has actually pressured Abbas--the US pressured Abbas to hold back from backing the Goldstone Report. Abbas gave in that time and lost respect in the eyes of Palestinians and the Arab world in general.

For that reason, Abbas could very well counter that the US is again putting him in an untenable position.

The difference this time is that Abbas finds himself in a position of his own making, after having made unreasonable demands.

And for once, Abbas is not being coddled by the US.

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