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Friday, September 17, 2010

'Palestinians' are united - against Abu Bluff

Former Arafat aid Mark Perry describes an August 25 incident in Ramallah in which Abu Mazen's thugs prevented a meeting of a unified 'Palestinian' opposition to Abu Mazen that did not consist of Hamas. Read the whole thing to get the gist of what happened (in the past, Perry has not been the most reliable source - recall the David Petraeus story), but here's the upshot:
Palestinians weren't the only ones disturbed by the events in Ramallah. Within hours of the incident, Israeli intelligence officers -- who make it their business to know what is going on inside of Palestinian society -- reported the incident to their superiors. Their views made their way into the hands of Israeli journalists, policymakers, and mid-level government officials. The judgment of these reports has been universally damning: the Ramallah incident showed that the Palestinian president is increasingly "isolated," that questions are being raised about his "legitimacy," that the majority of Palestinians now "oppose his participation in peace talks" and, most disturbing "that the internal Palestinian arena has reached boiling point and is on the verge of disintegration." Bassam al-Salhi agrees. "This is like a slow burning fire," he says. "It will get worse." Mustafa Barghouti reinforces that view: "Palestine is a tinberbox," he says. "It won't take much to set it off."

The Ramallah incident remains the front-and-center talk of the Palestinian street despite Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad's public apology over the incident ("I called him and said, why are you apologizing - you didn't do this," Bassam al-Salhi said), a pledge by Abbas that the incident would be investigated ("he said it, and we haven't heard a word from him since," Munib al-Masri notes) and the August 31 killing of four settlers near Hebron by Hamas gunmen. Meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, Barack Obama characterized the Hebron as "a heinous crime," while State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley speculated that the attack was timed to coincide with the opening of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In fact, while the attack's timing was not coincidental, it followed a series of highly publicized clashes in al-Buwayra, near Hebron, in which Israelis from the nearby settlements of Kyriat Arab and Harzina attacked Palestinian villages with clubs and set fire to their orchards. By the end of August, the attacks were widened to include Canadian and Danish "internationalists," who had come to protect al-Buwayra's villagers.

The al-Buwayra incidents provided the foundation for the Hamas attack which (while condemned by the organizers of the Ramallah meeting), was seen as a "reprisal" by both Hebronites and the vast majority of Palestinians -- who do not view settlers (many of whom are armed) as innocent civilians. Worse yet, at least for Mahmoud Abbas, a wave of warrantless mass arrests followed the Hebron killings -- 300 in all. The sweep was counterproductive; instead of reinforcing Abu Mazen's claim to political strength, it had the effect of underscoring his weakness. "Why 300?" one Palestinian journalist asked. "Why not 296? Or 301? Why 300? Was there a list somewhere?" Al-Haq's Jabarin provides a likely explanation: "I have no written evidence and no way of knowing," he says. "But my sense is that the Palestinian security services coordinate quite closely with both the Americans and Israelis on internal issues. It's clear from the campaigns of arrest that that this is a way to keep them happy." The killing of four settlers was a terrible tragedy, but according to some Palestinians its aftermath exposed a key misunderstanding among Obama's Middle East team. "You just don't get it," a Palestinian official who serves as an intermediary to Hamas from Fatah explains. "Hamas didn't kill the settlers because they wanted to stop the peace talks - they killed them because they want to be a part of the peace talks."

The cumulative political impact of the breakup of the Aug. 25 Ramallah meeting -- and the killing of the Hebron settlers just six days later -- cannot be dismissed. While the actions of Mahmoud Abbas's security services were intended to block the emergence of a united non-Hamas opposition to his rule, the two incidents have forged an unprecedented unity among disparate (and often feuding) political currents. The emerging consensus among the groups (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestine Peoples Party, the Palestinian National Initiative and a welter of NGO representatives, leaders of civil institutions, businessmen and respected independent voices), poses a challenge not simply to Mahmoud Abbas, but to the U.S. strategy for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Read it all. Someone remind me again why there are 'peace talks' going on.


At 6:00 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The point is Abu Bluff can't sell a compromise peace agreement back home. Virtually every Palestinian opposes the current talks with Israel.

That is why I expect nothing to come out of them.


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