Having ignored him for over a year, now all of sudden the world and his
dog wants to talk to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It’s
astonishing how short memories can be.

Israel didn’t want to negotiate its withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005. Washington never pressured erstwhile prime minister Ariel Sharon to do so.

Israel did not respond to the unilateral ceasefire, still in force, that Abbas successfully managed to negotiate with all the Palestinian factions in Cairo in early 2005. Instead, Israel continued and continues killing and capturing Palestinians with impunity, while destroying the Palestinian economy.

Washington never did anything to help Abbas then.

Abbas bravely pressed on with elections in 2006. Hamas won, and Abbas refused, initially, to renege on the reforms he himself as prime minister had pressed for, namely to devolve powers from the presidency to the government.

When Arafat was president, the US wanted the Palestinian government to have more power. With Hamas in government, the US wanted the president to take it back.

The US backed the elections and backed Hamas’ standing. Once the results were clear, however, it went back on its promise to promote democracy in the region and shamelessly cut off a starving population from its only source of funding. The US has the right to support whomsoever it may see fit, but it actively pressured anyone against supporting the Palestinian government.

Now, Abbas is in a corner. Gradually he has come to see that the West will not back down and would rather see Palestinians kill each other and/or starve than accept the choice of the Palestinian people.

So Abbas, by signalling that he is ready to dismiss the Hamas-led government, at the worst time possible, is now ready to see how far the West will back him. Will they pour in weapons to support Fateh when a civil war breaks out? Is that his gamble?

If so, it is a fool’s wager. The West cares nothing for Palestinians, whether Fateh or Hamas. It was not long ago when Arafat was blamed as the cause for all Palestinians’ woes. The West simply does not have the political will or nous to confront Israel and thus any excuse to blame the victim will be seized upon.

Now US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet Abbas. What will she tell him? What does the US promise? A Palestinian state? But how, when Israel needs to be pressured into accepting that?

Perhaps a Palestinian state minus the some 45 per cent of the West Bank that is left once the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and major settlement blocks are excluded?

More likely Rice will support Abbas politically in the ongoing coup against his own government, thus taking US Mideast policy full circle: Back to supporting the strongman the way Washington once supported the strongman in Baghdad. Except this strongman has a formidable foe among his own people.

Israel must be enjoying itself at the moment, especially once Gaza falls to Hamas and Fateh takes the scraps in the West Bank.

© Jordan Times (Oct 5, 2006)