Friday, April 25, 2003

Daniel Drezner has some appropriately pessimistic comments about the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen, as prime minister under Yasser Arafat. There's no doubt that Arafat will do everything in his power to undermine Abu Mazen, who represents a threat to Arafat's dictatorial power. Abu Mazen also has no political base to speak of; neither the public nor the ruling Fatah establishment is likely to back him in any significant endeavor, let alone a confrontation with Arafat. That is especially true of the mission that Israel and America obviously hope he will undertake: dismantling the various Palestinian terror organizations (including Fatah's own, the "Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades") and making other security-related concessions to Israel in return for eventual Palestinian independence.

That's unfortunate, because there are a few tantalizing hints in Abu Mazen's background that suggest that had he actually been empowered and supported, rather than simply appointed, he might well have been one of the closest available approximations to a genuine peace partner for Israel. He is said to have publicly denounced the campaign of violence initiated by Arafat in 2000 as a disaster for the Palestinians, and to have told Palestinian refugees in Syria bluntly that they no longer have homes in Israel to "return" to, and should stop believing that they do. If accurate, these accounts of such unusually frank, pragmatic statements--to Palestinian, not Israeli or international audiences--would be real breaths of fresh air. Sadly, they are also most likely the kiss of death for any hope of his wielding real power in the violent, extremist, self-immolating world of Palestinian politics.

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