Next week, Mahmoud Abbas will enter the 92nd month of his 48-month term, and now has Yasser Arafat’s record in sight. Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, running essentially unopposed (his opponent was a 72-year old woman with no political party). In 2004, in the ninth year of his four-year term, he left office on account of death. His second-in-command was elected president less than two months later, running essentially unopposed (Hamas boycotted the election). Abbas is now midway through the eighth year of his own four-year term, almost certain to break Arafat’s record if he can just stay healthy.
Next month, Abbas plans to return to the UN to seek recognition of a virtual Palestinian state — having already rejected a real one back when he was actually in office. Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Abbas’s decision to return to the UN is a ploy to avoid internal problems and extort more funds from the U.S. and Europe. But rather than sinking more money into another Palestinian president who rejects a state if the price is recognition of a Jewish one in defensible borders, perhaps it is time for a long-overdue review of U.S. policy.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said yesterday there would be no diplomatic progress as long as Abbas remains in power, citing the “slanderous” letter the PA sent last month to the EU and Abbas’s failure to respond to recent Israeli steps, which included: thousands of additional work permits; advances of about $50 million to pay PA salaries before Ramadan; an agreement with the Palestinian Energy Authority for more electric power substations in the West Bank; new infrastructure projects in Area C; and removal of additional roadblocks.
The issue is more fundamental, however, than Abbas’s decision to ignore the latest Israeli efforts. He once demanded a construction freeze, got one for ten months in the West Bank, and ignored that too. He received an offer of a state from Ehud Olmert, who begged him to accept it, and ignored that as well, rejecting the urgings of both Secretary Rice and President Bush. He ignored the personal request of President Obama last year to call off the grandstanding trip to the UN and return to negotiations. He published a New York Times op-ed, replete with distortions, seeking recognition of the “long delayed Palestinian state” not to end claims but to “pave the way” to “pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.”
Abbas does not have the political legitimacy to negotiate a peace agreement, nor the power to implement one even if he did. But the broader policy issue is this: Palestinian political culture has now produced a terrorist tyranny in Gaza and a faux democracy in the West Bank, unable even to hold local elections, lacking the civil, legal, and political institutions necessary to prevent the winner of its Potemkin presidential elections from serving as president-for-life. Why should the U.S. continue to support the creation of an already failed state?