News Analysis by Khalid Amayreh in Occupied East Jerusalem
4 May, 2008
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas feels quite
depressed these days, having been unceremoniously told by President
Bush that the US administration won’t pressure Israel to halt Jewish
settlement expansion nor commit itself to a total Israeli withdrawal
from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.
Some of Abbas’s aides have described his recent visit to Washington
as the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Abbas himself described
the visit as “a clear failure.”
One Palestinian commentator from Ramallah labeled the visit “ a
gigantic and monumental fiasco,” arguing that it amounted to a
virtual breakdown of Abbas’s entire strategy of counting on the Bush
administration to create a viable and contiguous Palestinian state,
with East Jerusalem as its capital.
According to sources in Amman, Abbas informed Bush that he wouldn’t
run for a second term as Chairman of the PA.
One source quoted an aide to Abbas as saying that the chairman
concluded his meeting with Bush by telling him “you can look for
another donkey to preside over the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA chairman reportedly asked Bush to declare his support for the
creation of a Palestinian state on the entirety of the West Bank,
Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and also to pressure Israel to put an
end to Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied territories,
especially East Jerusalem.
Abbas, according to aides, was stunned when Bush told him that he
couldn’t meet Palestinian demands since that would violate the letter
of guarantees he gave former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on
14 April, 2004. Bush further argued that any departure from the
infamous letter would lead to the downfall of the Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert’s government.
“President Abbas felt as if he was talking to the wall,” one
Palestinian official was quoted as saying. “Both Bush and (US
Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice refused to discuss details
related to the current peace talks with Israel. We are very
Rice arrived in Israel-Palestine Saturday evening, 3 May, apparently
to save “the peace process” from an imminent danger of collapse.
Rice told the Israeli media that the purpose of her visit was to
press Defense Minister Ehud Barak to remove some of the roadblocks
the Israeli occupation army maintains throughout the West Bank in
order to punish, torment and control the estimated 2.5 million
Palestinians living in the West Bank.
The US has asked Israel for the umpteenth time to remove the
roadblocks in order to ease up Palestinian daily life and boost
Abbas’s popularity in the eyes of his people.
For its part, Israel made numerous promises to remove the barriers,
but to no avail. Last month the Israeli government said it was
removing some of the key roadblocks in the West Bank in order to
facilitate the flow of goods and services throughout the West Bank.
However, Palestinians, peace activists and human rights organizations
operating in the occupied territories have accused the Israeli army
of practicing deception and of creating fictitious barriers in the
morning and removing them in the evening in order to give Washington
a false impression that Israel was honoring the pledges it had made
This protracted, lingering procrastination, along with the absence of
any substantive progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks, especially
over the so-called core issues, such as Jerusalem, the refugees and
the settlements, is obviously exasperating the Palestinian
leadership, desperate and eager to “clutch an achievement” which it
would use to convince the increasingly desperate and skeptical
Palestinian masses that Abbas’s way, not Hamas’s, was the right and
only way to wrest Palestinian rights from Israel’s parsimonious
Now, however, the manifestly deleterious effect of Abbas’s policy of
over-trusting and over-relying on the Bush Administration, are
Abbas is now realizing, belatedly if not too late, that Bush has
never been truly serious about pushing for a dignified and
even-handed resolution of the Palestinian plight.
I am saying “belatedly or too late” because Abbas nearly wrecked his
relations with his own people, especially since the Gaza events of
last year, all for the purpose of appeasing Bush and Rice and
receiving from them a certificate of good conduct.
He thought, out of naivety, ignorance, and weakness of character,
that the neocons in Washington would award him for his subservience
and obsequiousness by pressuring Israel to end the occupation and
halt unrelenting theft of Palestinian land.
However, Abbas’s most scandalous blunder has been his uneducated
conviction that the big liar of Washington, the man who invaded,
occupied and destroyed two sovereign Muslim countries based on lies,
would behave honestly and straightly with the Palestinians.
Now it would be very hard for Abbas to salvage his legacy by trying
to undo or at least rectify some of the blunders he and his regime
committed against the Palestinian masses and their enduring just
cause, all in order to please Washington.
As Chairman of the PA, Abbas and his hangers-on abducted, detained,
tortured and even killed political opponents in order to demonstrate
Palestinian commitment to peace to the malicious duo of the US and
Israel. This happened at a time when Israel continued to murder
Palestinians in droves and grab more Palestinian land for Jewish
Abbas also readily accepted, even welcomed, naked American
interference in Palestinian internal affairs to the point of allowing
Washington to conspire in coordination with certain Palestinian
security officials to corrode and overthrow the democratically
elected government led by the Hamas movement.
More to the point, Abbas went as far as tacitly collaborating with
Israel and the US in maintaining the Nazi-like blockade of 1.5
million Gazans, all in order to weaken Hamas.
I don’t really know if Abbas has the moral courage and intellectual
honesty to say to Washington “enough is enough.”
If he does, he should do it now, because tomorrow might be too late.