Can Abbas be second Arafat? : Trend News commentator

Politics Materials 12 January 2009 16:07 (UTC +04:00)

Commentator of Trend Middle East Desk Ulviyya Sadikhova

Operations in Gaza Strip against Hamas members which claimed lives of roughly 900 Palestinians undermine an image of current President of Palestinian Autonomy (PA) Mahmoud Abbas who hardly can be the second Yasser Arafat.

More than two weeks have passed since early Cast Lead operations. However, the head of the PA confined himself to only official accusations toward Hamas and Israel and did not put forward a concrete assistance plan for Gaza people.

Surely, Hamas's weakening will act in Abbas's favor. Leaders of the Palestinian resistance movement have become serious rivals for the head of Fatah after he was elected as the president in 2005.

Hamas which turned into a powerful political force from an ordinary grouping offered Mahmoud Abbas to form the united government after victory in the parliamentary elections in 2006. However, Abbas not only refused from this offer, but also dissolved the government as a protest against victory of Hamas which led to conflict in 2007 between members of Hamas and Fatah. The first won, because they gained strong support of Gaza people and got upper hand over the strip.

Therefore, Hamas was expected to win in the next presidential elections in 2010. Under such a condition, Abbas risked to lose the Western Bank and to come to grief in a political arena.

Abbas will enter the history of the Palestinians' struggle as the most pro-Israeli and pro-western leader. He achieved considerable progress in the Annapolis negotiations where it was decided to establish an independent Palestinian state by 2008.

However, efforts of Hamas at a political arena of small Palestine and gaining support of majority of people not only in Gaza, but also in the Western Bank could lead to establishing state to be threat for Israel. Israel commenced military operations shortly before the elections in Palestine not by chance. Abbas's office term expired on Jan. 9.

But in autumn Abbas made it clear that he was not going to leave the power and intends to be re-elected for the second term. It is not difficult for Abbas to gain victory, as he has political support of Egypt and guarantee for his safety by Israel. However, will it mean victory and support of the Palestinian people, which Hamas achieved for three years?

Weakening of Hamas will act in Cairo's favor, which Egypt does not hide at all. As Hamas strengthened more day by day, Cairo could not keep its borders with Gaza under control. Within three years, border regions of Egypt turned into smuggling zone from where Hamas got military equipments. The Arabian media reported that Hamas gets necessary means to make famous Kassam missiles from the Egyptian border. In addition, Hamas is connected with the Egyptian group of 'Brothers- Muslims', which is a threat to the political life of the country due to their pro-Islam tendency.

Therefore Egypt has always try to keep balance in its relations with Hamas, and even it stood as a mediator in  miscarried negotiations between Hamas and Fatah in October.

Mahmoud Abbas, seeing Egypt's interest, puts solving Gaza conflict on Cairo. Being Palestinians' leader, he rarely appears in public and listens to Egypt's advice on solving the situation. During 16 days conflict Abbas could not propose any plan, and even to support the population in Gaza. The documents that were accepted by the UN Council of Security through direct participation of Palestinian leaders played no role in this war.

Israel turned down UN proposals, and justifies assault on Gaza as a war against terrorism

Several years ago during leadership of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was recognized as a terror organization. Regardless of terror stain, Arafat achieved dramatic successes in the negotiations with Israel, and founded ground for today's Palestine-Israel dialogue. The first Intifada in 1987 and a new founded Hamas movement supported Palestinian leader, finished by a conference in Oslo in 1993. The ideas to establish an independent Palestinian government, and was supported by Israel, were sounded then.

Ten years later, standing at the end of political career, Arafat has recognized the 'Road map', developed by the Middle East quartet (Russia, the UN, ES and U.S.), which defined borders of the further government at international level for the first time.

Arafat achieved the PLO to be the one official representative of Palestine in world through his permanent struggle for independence. Being informed about ever growing force of Hamas, he never stood against Hamas leaders. And therefore, members of Hamas always supported Arafat and the government during the second Intifada in 2000.

Palestine's struggle for independence ended with Arafat's death in 204. The struggle continued over 60 years.

Abbas has never tried to revive this policy. Supporting international diplomacy, he quickly achieved recognition of Israeli politicians.

However, the failure of the Palestine-Israel dialogue in Gaza demonstrated Abbas'a weakness as Palestine's leader.

Therefore, even if Hamas will weaken after Israeli's assaults, the Palestinian population will prefer to see members of the movement as their leaders.

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