Into the Abyss With Abbas

Now I don’t usually have ANY sympathy for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas but even my stone heart can squeeze a drop of water for him this week. You know he is in a bad position when his putative partner in governance, Hamas, mocks him as “the IDF spokesperson,” Knesset parliamentarian and Palestinian extremist Hanin Zoabi calls him a traitor, and a group of intellectuals and retired army officers in Jordan called on their government to revoke the Jordanian citizenship of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on charges he “betrayed the Palestinian cause.” It seems his only friend in the world right now is Israel’s President Shimon Peres who last Sunday declared that “Abbas is the best partner Israel has ever had, and has now. I have known him for 20 years. I think he’s a man of his word. I think he’s a man of courage.” Peres also remarked that Abbas was “risking his life” by taking a strong stand against terrorism.  The praise from the Israeli president may just turn out to be the kiss of death.

Let me be clear, with all due respect to Israel’s nonagenarian president, Abbas is no less repugnant or dishonest now than he was 10 days ago.

Abbas is in a trap of his own making, having recently entered into a unification agreement with Hamas to form a joint Palestinian government.

Coming at the end of the nine-month “negotiating period” with Israel, it seemed like a masterstroke to present a unified Palestinian face to the world, promising “technocrats” and not terrorists and scheduling democratic elections within six months.

This move, though controversial, received support from the European Union and most of the world.

The United States was a little less enthusiastic but nonetheless gave its blessing while promising to monitor the behavior of Hamas as a governing party.

Israel all along claimed that the agreement was a Trojan horse by which Hamas would gain legitimacy and a foothold in Yehudah and Shomron, thereby undermining the so-called moderate Palestinian Authority and effectively lead a “democratically” sanctioned military coup of the Palestinians, virtually identical to what Hizbullah achieved in Lebanon.

Guess whose prognostication proved most accurate?

Israel’s did, though far more quickly than anyone could have imagined.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claims to have “absolutely irrefutable” proof that Hamas perpetrated the kidnapping of Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah and, given the universally recognized excellence of Israeli military intelligence, it would appear Netanyahu’s claim is credible and he is not merely attributing the crime to Hamas to discredit them.

Hamas, though indifferent to world opinion, denies responsibility for the act.

In fact, though the organization rejects that it is the guilty party, it has nonetheless reaped the benefit of the kidnapping, having its bona fides as a military organization able to harass the mighty Israeli Army revived, and has seen its credibility and popularity amongst Palestinians soar.

Regardless of whether Hamas actually is guilty, it has been a tremendous campaign boost for them in the Palestinian elections slated for next fall.

Abbas, no matter what he does, is under unrelenting, ever-increasing pressure from one side or the other. At the same time he is being vilified by Arabs, Netanyahu’s office intensifies the pressure on Abbas, stating,  “The words of Abu Mazen [PA President Abbas] will be assessed according to the PA’s efforts in trying to bring the abducted teenagers home safely, and the real test is the cancellation of the agreement with Hamas.”

Abbas, perhaps as a public gesture for Western consumption or perhaps sincerely, told the Arab media that he does not condone or accept the kidnapping of the “Israeli children” and that “Palestinian Authority security forces are doing everything in their power to help bring them back to their families.”

Again, during the Islamic Summit Conference in Saudi Arabia, Abbas condemned the abduction, which he said was aimed at destroying the PA, and promised to take steps against the abductors.

This did not endear him to Hamas, Jordan, or Zoabi, or for that matter to the Palestinian street, where he is considered a collaborator for not only condemning the kidnapping but worse, assisting Israel in the search for the boys.

His popularity has plummeted. Hamas officials, exploiting this disdain for Abbas, appealed to the PA’s security forces to disobey Abbas’ orders to cooperate with Israel. This past Saturday, in a show of contempt for Abbas, his policies and those who carry them out, rioters pelted cars at a Ramallah police station (Ramallah is the capitol of the Palestinian Authority) with rocks, causing damage to numerous official cars there.

Politics is a zero-sum game and, needless to say, all that Hamas has gained has come at the expense of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

Today, Abbas finds himself between the proverbial rock and the hard place; between Israel and Hamas.

Abbas must condemn the atrocity committed by Hamas without alienating the average Palestinian while simultaneously assisting Israel in searching for the boys as he condemns Israel and pleads with the U.N. and the international community to condemn Israel for the severity of Operation Brother’s Keeper.

His is an unenviable position and his best ticket out is to renounce Hamas and try to resume negotiations with Israel.

Will Abbas perpetuate the sage assessment of Israeli diplomat Abba Eban who astutely said that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” or fulfill the assessment of Israel’s President Shimon Peres?

I have my guess.

Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.