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mahmoud abbas

The Palestinian leadership has hinted that they may be open to continuing talks with Israel even if “settlement” building resumes:

Speaking to a closed meeting of Jewish American leaders in New York late Tuesday, Abbas made clear that he wants to continue the dialogue with Israel and signaled that he was backing away from his ultimatum.

“I cannot say I will leave the negotiations, but it’s very difficult for me to resume talks if Prime Minister Netanyahu declares that he will continue his activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” Abbas said, according to a transcript of the event obtained by The Associated Press.

Abbas urged Israel to extend the building restrictions for several months while the sides negotiate the final borders between Israel and a future Palestine. “At that time, Israelis will be free to build in their territory and the Palestinians the same,” he said.

This could just be a stall tactic on Abbas’s part, sure. But the reality is that Israel cannot indefinitely put life on hold for nearly half a million of its citizens, while a peace that everyone knows will not happen is endlessly discussed just to boost Obama’s ego.

A lot of people think that these rounds of peace talks are futile. I don’t. Increasingly, I think they’re dangerous, because at the end of each round of failed talks, Israel has conceded that much more and has moved the starting marker for the next round. It’s a war of attrition, all right, only going the other way. And where does it stop?

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The Palestinian people, anyway. This according to a new poll conducted by Ramallah-based Near East Consulting that surveyed 880 Palestinians. Overall support for Fatah is at 48%, while Hamas is down to 11% support:

“There is widespread support for Fatah,” Dr. Jamil Rabah, director of Near East Consulting in the PA, told The Media Line. “They support the Fatah political process and don’t think Hamas is on the right path politically.” 

[ . . . ]

“It doesn’t surprise me that the sentiments of the people are in this direction,” Abdallah Abdallah, chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council’s Political Committee, told The Media Line. “Over a year has passed since the Gaza war and still people are living in the streets. People want those responsible for this to go and I think the sentiments of the people after three or more years of this is that it’s about time that those who are not capable of running the affairs of the people – go.”

Hamas swept to power in Gaza first by exploiting people’s frustration with the corruption of the Fatah administration, and then through a violent show of force. Popular support for suicide bombings and attacks on Israeli civilians was high, and Hamas was able to claim to the world (though maybe not with an altogether straight face) that it was a “legitimate” political party. Now, after promising to “crush” Israel and succeeding in doing little more than crushing Gaza, it seems that the Hamas option has lost its shiny lustre to a lot of disillusioned Palestinians.

But it would be a mistake to take this polling data at face value. People vote out of ideology, sure, but also out of self-interest. And in the Palestinian territories, where hatred is a powerful weapon that can be stirred up almost at will to redirect people’s frustration, these things can shift quickly. There will be those who will back the strongest horse, those who go looking for the options that are even more extremist than Hamas, and those who will get disgusted with voting altogether in a place where democracy doesn’t exactly have deep roots.

We’ve seen this before. Support for a political approach rises among Palestinians when there appears to be no threat of any progress actually being made. The minute this threat arises – whether at Camp David in 2000, or after Oslo or Wye – the people balk and something triggers another wave of violence. And if it’s not Hamas out in front, then support will go towards whoever is shouting the loudest, shooting the most, and inspiring the most fear.

And what the poll won’t tell you is that the bigger picture in the Middle East is also a factor – maybe the factor. As Iran battles Saudi Arabia for regional dominance, Hamas is engaged in something of a proxy war against Iran-sponsored Hezbollah, jockeying for power using the gruesome metric of dead Israeli civilians as credentials.

But, for the moment at least, Hamas’s popular support is way down. And if the Palestinians actually had real elections, this might actually have implications.

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Weekend update

11.09.2009

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was commemorated with free outdoor concerts and celebrations this weekend. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Obama healthcare reform bill in a narrow vote – a crucial first step towards a complete overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system. But, as the New York […]

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What’s missing from this story?

02.02.2006

See if you can spot what crucial fact is missing from this Reuters piece on how the Palestinians are appealing to surrounding Arab states for aid money: Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are expected to speed money to the Palestinian Authority within days to help it pay its employees after Israel halted tax payments, […]

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Giving Robert Fisk a run for the idiocy title

01.01.2006

It’s only January 1st and we already have our solid candidate for Idiotarian of the Year: Italian “peace activist” Alessandro Bernardini, who was kidnapped by Fatah gunmen but still thinks the Palestinian terrorists are a bunch of nice guys: “I am fine, I am fine … They gave me cigarettes and tea,” Bernardini told reporters, […]

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What Reuters bias?

10.02.2005

Let’s examine this morning’s headline: Sharon, Abbas talk as Israel suspends offensive. Israel suspends offensive??? Sounds like a Palestinian offensive to me: But in three days, Palestinians have fired 5 Qassam missiles, six anti-tank rockets and a half dozen mortar shells at Israeli military and civilian targets outside its borders. Israel army patrols were shot […]

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Gaza pullout: a step towards peace?

08.22.2005

Abbas and Sharon are making the usual meaningless statements about “working towards peace” and starting a “new page” in Israeli-Palestinian relations. In the meantime, Hamas is giving the real picture: Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced on Monday that they have reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority according to which the two groups would not […]

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Sunday night musings

05.29.2005

Here I am on another Sunday night procrastinating going to sleep… because when I next wake up it will really be Monday and the weekend will be over. And there’s nothing more depressing than a Monday morning. So I’m determined to make it worse by being tired as a zombie. Makes perfect sense to me. […]

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Our tax dollars at work

05.27.2005

$12 million dollars was committed to the Palestinian Authority by Paul Martin today, after meeting with Mahmoud Abbas who’s on a fundraising tour for his government band of terrorists: Martin said Friday the money was targeted towards helping the Palestinians build democratic institutions, such as an independent judiciary, and to improve housing. [ . . […]

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Truce? What truce?

03.03.2005

A car bomb exploded at Joseph’s Tomb today. The Palestinian terrorists were trying to kill the IDF soldiers guarding the worshippers there, but luckily nobody seems to have been hurt. It’s the same old story, on a different day. There is no truce. Anyone who thinks there still is one, after this attack, the Tel […]

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