Thursday, September 2, 2010

Abbas: The man and the politician

By Lamis Andoni

"Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has insisted that he will withdraw from direct talks with Israel if it does not extend its freeze on settlement building when it expires on September 26.

The pledge was intended to placate widespread opposition to the resumption of negotiations from within both Hamas and Abbas' own Fatah group. But his promises are unlikely to make a dent in the growing disillusionment with a 'peace process' many see as providing cover for continued Israeli expansion. And, coming after he backed down on his vow to boycott the talks without a prior Israeli commitment to extending the freeze, Abbas' words are lacking in credibility.

It is, in fact, the words of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, that today ring louder and clearer in the ears of Palestinians. "You don't need to worry. Nobody needs to teach me what it is to love Eretz Israel," he told Likud party members before leaving for Washington. His use of the term 'Eretz Israel' - meaning the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan - implies that he has no intention of giving up control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and, consequently, will not allow the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.

So, while Israelis may have nothing to worry about, Palestinians most certainly do and Abbas has failed to reassure even his own supporters that he will not succumb to Israeli and American pressure....

Abbas is fully aware that he goes to Washington with many Palestinians, including some of those closest to the PA, viewing him as having at best surrendered and at worst as being a traitor.

He was badly shaken when, in the wake of his initial support for a postponement of the discussion on the Goldstone report, his grandson came to him crying and explained that children at his school had called his grandfather a "traitor"....."

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