Just two months ago, Abu Mazen’s western backers (and bank-rollers) were lauding the non-trivial achievement he racked up by being able to convene a selected list of invitees to the Fateh General Conference. In the weeks since then, his political standing in the Palestinian street has taken four nosedives:
- 1. Two weeks ago he was forced by his US funders to go and make nice at the “three-way” with Obama and Netanyahu at the General Assembly– despite Netanyahu having blithely continued with his construction of Jews-only settlements on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
2. Obama, on whom Abu Mazen had pinned so many hopes, has apparently caved on continuing to do anything serious to hold Israel to account for its settlement construction– and he has taken no concrete actions on the peace diplomacy, either.
3. The concerted campaign by the Israeli government, the rightwing Jerusalem municipality, and quasi-non-governmental settler groups to Judaize Jerusalem while ruthlessly suppressing the rights of the city’s rightful Palestinian residents, has continued; and finally
4. In “the war over the war over Gaza”, Abu Mazen made a massive concession to the Israelis by having his person at the UN Human Rights Council ask to “defer” any further action on the Goldstone Report until March. For many Palestinians around the world, Abu Mazen’s betrayal of the Goldstone/UN push to hold the Israeli government somewhat accountable for the death and destruction it inflicted on Gaza last winter has been a turning point.
In this post Sunday, Long knives in Ramallah over Goldstone?, I quoted an Al-Quds al-Arabi report alleging it had been Salam Fayyad who made the decision to kill the Goldstone Report (at least, for now.) But now, a lot of other accounts are coming out tracing the decision to Mahmoud Abbas himself, Abu Mazen.
Al-Jazeera English quoted the head of the human rights department in Qatar’s foreign ministry as very directly attributing the decision to Abu Mazen.
Some accounts (e.g. Al-Jazeera Arabic) have him doing it because he was blackmailed. Some, e.g. Maan, have him doing it because he got diplomatically snookered.
Both those latter accounts, by the way, rely on Israeli sources of unknown veracity, so who knows what his real motivation was? (Another account I’ve seen said the decision was linked to Israeli blackmail over control of the electromagnetic spectrum, and their release of some bandwidth that would have benefited a telecoms venture in which one of his sons is involved.)
Anyway, all four of the factors listed above are, together, responsible for Abu Mazen’s rapidly plunging political fortune.
For him– and for all of us who hoped for a saner US peace diplomacy after the departure of Pres. G.W. Bush from power– Obama’s intervention has been a big disappointment. Actually, for Abu Mazen, it’s far worse than a disappointment. It’s a political catastrophe.
And for the long-suffering people of Palestine? A catastrophe, too. But they will probably see this as the latest in a long series of the catastrophes they’ve suffered, and one that no doubt– at the cost of much, quite avoidable, continued suffering– they will somehow find a way to weather. Their fate is not, after all, totally tethered to the political fortunes of Abu Mazen.