Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Arlene Kushner: After The #PalestinePapers, Abbas Is Done

The implications of Palileaks, the Palestine Papers, goes far beyond the veracity of the documents or what it indicates about the Palestinian or Israeli side in the Mideast peace talks. The real question is what future does Abbas and the PA have.

This excerpt of Arlene Kushner's From Israel is from the January 25, 2011 edition: "Give Me a Break":
Khaled Abu Toameh, writing about this in the JPost today, does not specifically say that the leaks are fabricated. But he does refer to a "show trial," which carries certain implications. This, in part, is what he wrote:

"After assuming the role of prosecutor and judge, Al- Jazeera, the Arab world’s most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down from the stage.

"In other words, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his men have been convicted of high treason – which, in the Arab and Islamic world, is a crime punishable by death.

"Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence.

"...The TV station has already decided that the defendants are guilty of the...charges against them. The station’s unequivocal message to Palestinians is that Abbas and his men are traitors who need to be removed from the scene, and the sooner the better.

"It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests.

"The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.."



This, my friends, is the story. Not a parsing of whether Abbas might give more than he has publicly indicated, or what it means that his private and public words seem so different.

Abbas as a politician has been weakened, perhaps fatally. The PA has been weakened.

It was highly unlikely in any event that Abbas was going to return to the table, no matter what the Quartet may be proclaiming or what might be happening in meetings he has with Ross and others. But now? He might prefer to resign and go into hiding in a distant land rather than sit down opposite Netanyahu. Were he to meet with the Israeli prime minister, it would be seen by his people as immediately suspect, a betrayal.

Abu Toameh refers to a "death sentence" for high treason. Do not take this metaphorically. Abbas knows full well that his life is in danger.


And let's take this one step further. Roee Nahmias, writing on YNet, describes the "ambush-like coverage planned in advance, [in which] network reporters were deployed in the field." An Al-Jazeera correspondent went into a refugee camp in Lebanon "in order to elicit reactions to 'the Palestinian renouncement of the right of return.' Meanwhile, several commentators in the studios were fuming, including the editor of the hawkish London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, Abdul Bari Atwan, a Palestinian who constantly slams senior PA officials."

So Al-Jazeera not only fomented the current situation, it is willfully fueling it.

Elaborates Nahmias:

"...one should not be making light of al-Jazeera’s effort (and not for the first time) to present PA officials as willing collaborators with Israel, who sell off their people and make concessions behind closed doors...

"...the overall package presented by the Qatar-based network was a resounding 'You sold out Palestine.'

"The situation throughout the Middle East is volatile ever since the Tunisia upheaval. Arab rulers are waiting for the dust to settle and for order to be restored. Yet precisely at this time, al-Jazeera arrived with its bombastic reports, which directly undermine the legitimacy of Palestinian Authority leaders, even if most of the 'concessions' were already known in advance and thoroughly covered by the media before.

"Such reports and claims, which have been repeated in various forms and more forcefully in recent years, are gradually weakening the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority. It is being portrayed as a weak, submissive, failed and corrupt entity, as opposed to Yasser Arafat’s era, for example. And when this is the impression created by the most popular network in the Arab world, can one assume this will not have future implications?

"Even if the likelihood of this is slim at this time, we should take into account the possibility that ongoing erosion in legitimacy and image may one day provoke riots against the PA, or at least prompt a power struggle amongst its leaders, thereby dramatically toughening its positions.

"If one day we see bloody riots in the West Bank similar to the ones we saw in Gaza, it would be worthwhile to go back to the latest al-Jazeera project. This is yet another step, and apparently a deliberate one, in weakening the PA, a move that one party stands to benefit from: The Hamas movement. It is for good reason that Hamas already uses the term 'popular revolution' in its reports." (Emphasis added)



We should not be surprised by this state of affairs, for Qatar, which is the home base for Al-Jazeera, provides support for Hamas:

In 2008, The Washington Times cited a key Abbas aide as saying that Qatar provides Hamas with millions each month -- in addition to which, it provides political support and hosts Hamas officials in Doha regularly.

In 2009, terrorism expert Matthew Levitt, writing on the Counterterrorism blog, addressed Qatar's "diplomatic journey away from the Arab consensus -- via support for Islamist extremists -- toward an alliance with Syria and Iran."

Altogether the situation with Qatar is both difficult and somewhat schizoid. For the US has had significant ties with Qatar, and, in fact, in 2003 directed the war on Iraq from an American base in Qatar.

The direction in which Qatar is moving seems to me a spit in the eye for the US. The current undermining of the chances of furthering the peace process so fervently sought by the US, if nothing else, is problematic for Obama.


Yesterday, State Department spokesman JP Crowley allowed in a press conference that the leaks complicate efforts to forge a peace deal. However, he clarified, this will not slow the president's work towards that goal.


But let us step back and look at the big picture:

Hezbollah is about to take control in Lebanon, to our north. Iran is directly implicated in what's going on there.

To our east, the PA is weakened and an Iranian-supported Hamas is more likely to take over, as the result of machinations by Qatar, which has ties to Iran.

Hello there, in Washington! If Obama truly wants to see peace in this part of the world, he should table his efforts to get Abbas to the table (Which efforts would likely include increased pressure on Israel to offer the PA "confidence building measures," since it was weakened.)

Obama's absolute priority should be stopping Iran in its destructive tracks and in increasing US deterrence in this part of the world.

Does he have even a clue?


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution

see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info

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