From the time he took over the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), it was obvious that Mahmoud Abbas was going to have a difficult road ahead of him. Replacing Yasser Arafat, the charismatic leader of the Palestinian national movement was tough enough. But, among other challenges, Abbas had to wind down the second intifada without destroying the PLO, try to restore some of the faith Arafat had squandered with his autocratic tendencies, cronyism and human rights abuses, and walk the impossible tightrope of fighting against the Israeli occupation while working with Israel under the terms of the Oslo Accords.
History is unlikely to judge Abbas kindly. The deck may have been stacked against him, but even within that context, he has performed poorly. Read more at LobeLog
When I started getting serious about action on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the associated US foreign policy, I found it imperative to convince people that the Oslo Accords were doomed to fail. There were the obvious critiques of the accords: the lack of any sort of human rights framework, the absence of consequences for failing to abide by conditions or fulfill agreed upon commitments, and the formal recognition of Israel without any mention whatsoever of a potential Palestinian state. But I saw an even bigger obstacle.
Conventional wisdom has it that Jerusalem is the most difficult stumbling block. But I have always maintained that it is the Palestinian refugees that were the most serious obstacle to a negotiated solution. Read more at LobeLog
An edited version of this article first appeared in LobeLog
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with U.S. President Barack Obama this week, following in the footsteps of
Abbas and Obama confer at the White House
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the month. But unlike Netanyahu, Abbas is a much less heralded, or even well-known figure in Washington. And, above all, he is a man with far fewer options.
With a deadline looming at the end of April by which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had promised first to broker a permanent Israel-Palestine agreement and, later, a more modest goal of a framework for continuing talks, Abbas arrived in Washington with little to offer and less room to make further concessions. It’s a familiar position for the Palestinian leader, one he has been in since 2004, when he assumed the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) upon the death of Yasir Arafat.
Arafat was a universally respected leader to the Palestinian people, even, grudgingly, among his rivals; a fighter who had proven his worth in conflict. Abbas, by contrast, had long been Arafat’s number two, but he was more intellectual, having been an advocate, a resistance politician and a fundraiser for most of his time in exile and then after his return to the Palestinian Territories in 1994. Continue reading