FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Don’t Envy Abu-Mazen

My first impression of Abu-Mazen was of a serious, methodical, somewhat aloof introvert. He reminded me of a high-school principal, very different from Arafat, the impulsive extrovert, prone to personal gestures, exuding warmth to all around him.

I met Abu-Mazen for the first time some 28 years ago. We were secretly in Tunis to meet Yasser Arafat. There were three of us: Matti Peled, a general in the reserves, Ya’acov Arnon, a former Director General of the Treasury and I. We met Abu-Mazen first to prepare practical proposals for joint actions, to be put before the “Old Man”, as Arafat – then 54–was called.

I had first heard mention of the name Abu-Mazen nine years earlier, with my first secret contacts with senior PLO officials. They told me that the Fatah leadership had appointed a committee of three for contacts with Israelis. They were the “three Abus” (as I called them): Abu-Amar (Yasser Arafat), Abu-Iyad (Salah Halaf) and Abu-Mazen (Mahmud Abbas).

Abu-Mazen was directly responsible for the contacts that started in 1974. At the first stage, they were conducted with me personally, but, from the autumn of 1976 on, the Israeli partner was the “Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace”. The Palestinians who met us were Sa’id Hamami and Issam Sartawi–who were both murdered by the Iraqi-supported Palestinian arch-terrorist, Abu-Nidal, a mortal enemy of Arafat.

When Arafat and Abu-Mazen were both present at meetings with us, I got a clear picture of their mutual standing. The detailed discussions were conducted by Abu-Mazen, who had a good knowledge of things Israeli, but it was Arafat who, in the end, made the decisions. More than once I had the impression that the senior PLO leaders were quite content to leave to Arafat the responsibility for the courageous, dangerous and unpopular decisions that led up to the agreement with Israel.

Now there is a new situation. Arafat has agreed to appoint Abu-Mazen Prime Minister. (The very fact that the whole world, and Israel too, have welcomed the Palestinian “government” and “Prime Minister” is a big step towards the establishment of the State of Palestine. In Oslo Israel still strenuously resisted terms like “President”, “government” and “parliament” for the Palestinians.)

Abu-Mazen has taken upon himself a great responsibility vis-a-vis his own people and the world. He has put himself in a well-nigh impossible position.

Sharon & Co. demand that he first of all put an end to “terrorism” (“armed struggle” in Palestinian parlance), liquidate the “terrorist organizations” collect their arms and prevent “incitement”. Only after the successful completion of all this can real negotiations begin. Freezing the construction of settlements, of course, should not even be mentioned at this stage.

The Palestinian public, on the other hand, demands that first of all the Israeli army should leave the Palestinian towns, stopping “targeted assassinations”, settlement activity, the demolition of homes and all other acts of oppression, and start real negotiations for the establishment of the State of Palestine.

This threatens to become a deadlock.

If the US and Europe exert massive pressure on Sharon, the way they have put massive pressure on Arafat, the deadlock might be broken. The Israeli army would withdraw, the situation in the Palestinian territories would change completely, the Palestinians would be able to breathe again and Abu-Mazen would appear as a leader who had already attained a great achievement. The popularity of the extreme organizations would decline.

Even if this happened, Abu-Mazen could not dream of making mass arrests, destroying the organizations and confiscating their weapons. There is nothing the Palestinians fear more than fratricidal war. However, the pressure of Palestinian public opinion would lead, at least, to an effective armistice. Even the extreme organizations are sensitive to the attitudes of their public–if it wants quiet, there will be quiet. That has already happened in the first period after the Oslo agreement.

Let’s assume that this happens. The attacks stop almost completely (there will always be some individuals and local groups who feel they have to act on their own). The Abu-Mazen government functions well in the Palestinian towns and villages. Then what?

After the publication of the Road Map, Sharon will propose dozens of “corrections”. Even now the “map” is strongly tilted towards Sharon. While the Palestinians gave up 78% of the country in Oslo and accepted the remaining 22% for building their own state, and have declared that they want to live in peaceful co-existence with Israel, Sharon talks about “painful concessions” without spelling out what he really means.

If Sharon’s “corrections” are even partly accepted, the plan will lose most of what content it still has. Abu-Mazen will stand there with empty hands, the negotiations will stagnate as in previous rounds. Gradually, the Palestinians will be forced to the conclusion that they can achieve nothing without violence, the fighting organizations will regain the initiative and the armed struggle will resume.

Sharon and Bush will blame the Palestinians, of course. They will say that Abu-Mazen “has not delivered the goods”. The Palestinians, for their part, will say that Abu-Mazen is naive, that he has fallen into an American-Israeli trap. He will resign, Arafat’s prestige will rise to new heights.

The next chapter can be foreseen. The Christian fundamentalists and Zionist neo-cons, who control Washington at this time, will demand that Sharon be given a free hand. The Palestinians will embark on the third intifada, more extreme than the two before. Blood and fire and columns of smoke.

It could be different. For example: the US stops treating the Quartet with contempt, pressure is put on Sharon, Bush is not reelected, the negotiations bear fruit, the peace camp wins in Israel, the Palestinian state is founded in peace.

In the Holy Land, miracles have happened before.

But in the meantime, don’t envy Abu-Mazen.

 

More articles by:

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail