Disappointment awaits Mahmood Abbas chez Bush
What is the report card for Mahmoud Abbas?
Some might say one of his character traits is the state in which he is today--weak. But in fact he is not weak. Let’s take two examples: the cease-fire and the forced retirement of security officials. He is decisive and he knows how to be definitive. But his report card is strictly dependent upon the room for maneuver afforded him by the Israelis, who up until now haven’t enforced even the most marginal provisions of the Sharm al Sheik Summit of 8 February. The Israelis are trying to renegotiate what they’ve already negotiated.
Do you think that despite what he’s been saying, Mr. Sharon wants Mr. Abbas to fail?
Sharon is not fond of Abu Mazen (the nom de guerre of Mahmoud Abbas) because he’s embarrassing. With him, it’s hard to justify the construction of the security wall and expanded settlement. But until now, the USA hasn’t supported Abu Mazen with anything but pretty-sounding words. Bush’s statement against colonization did not change one thing. Summed up, neither the Israelis nor the Americans have supported him, while asking him to do the impossible: start a civil war by attacking Hamas. Impossible because Abbas doesn’t want it nor could he do it. Every Palestinian would be against it. I’m a moderate myself and I couldn’t support him in this. If he’s able to get Hamas to join to political process and to observe the cease-fire, what more could one ask for? Abu Mazen is a courageous man. We both belong to the old guard. Sharon is back to resorting to the policy of pre-conditions…Do this and that first, then we’ll see.
We know the game by heart: Israel gets to be both judge and plaintiff. Take the Gaza Strip for example. Do the Israelis really want a successful pullout? Or do they want Gaza to be the subject of endless negotiations over borders, the seaport, the airport and links between Gaza and the West Bank. Each of these issues is absolutely crucial to the development of the Gaza Strip but we have had no replies. We don’t want to live on charity. The European Union supports more us financially than any other power in the world.
What are you expecting from the United States?
Abu Mazen is going to say to the Americans, You believed that Arafat was incapable of keeping his promises and of stopping the violence but look what I’ve done. He has kept his promises and stopped the violence with next to no available means. We shall see how the Americans react but they are aware that their pretty words, promises and “visions” for the Palestinian state are worthless.
Mr. Abbas’ party, Fatah, seems weakened. Is Abbas hampered by this?
Abu Mazen hoped to find broad-based support ranging beyond a single party which produced some teeth-gnashing within Fatah. The forced retirements within the security establishment mainly affected Fatah cadres. But it’s against his interests to have a weak Fatah. Palestinian society is divided into three camps: the moderates—which one might describe to a certain degree as being secular—, the conservatives and the extremists. Despite everything, Fatah is the chief pillar of the moderate camp—it’s the cornerstone of my camp, which is seeking a political understanding with Israel and not eternal war.