Whether these talks succeed or collapse, this will probably be the last task for the aging Palestinian leader, also known as Abu Mazen. At 75, Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since November 2004, is ailing and an increasingly unpopular figure in the Palestinian street.
A series of setbacks has rocked his presidency since he succeeded his boss, Yasser Arafat, in 2004. It started with a political rift with Hamas, the grassroots Islamic party that swept parliamentary elections in 2006 and which since June 2007 has governed the Gaza portion of the Palestinian Territories. Abbas had tried to disarm the group in 2003, when serving as prime minister under Arafat, creating a permanent rift with Palestinian guerrillas from different ends of the political spectrum.
And this takeaway is significant:
The Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-2009 did not break Hamas’ power, much to Abbas’ displeasure. Abbas tried to drown the high-profile United Nations report blaming Israel for the war, further tarnishing his image among ordinary Palestinians who increasingly saw him as an American stooge.
It’s one of those dilemmas of Arab politics that many on this side of the pond just don’t get: a significant portion of the leadership of the Arab world need the Israelis to succeed every now and then, even though they despise the Jewish state. Another example of this is Iran: Israel right at the moment is the only effective counterweight to Iran’s budding nuclear capabilities, something Sunni Arab states on the south side of the Gulf are all too aware of.
It’s another proof, in my view, that Barack Obama is not a Muslim. A Muslim, especially one with the purposed sophistication of our President, would have a better handle on the complexities of the way the game is played in the Middle East. Obama too often acts like what he is, a 1960’s style idealist radical who is looking for the greatest mirage the desert has ever known.