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Something New and Something Old

Barry Rubin notes that the appointment of Ram Hamdullah as the new PA “prime minister” (an unintentionally funny designation, since the Palestinians lack a working parliament), is designed to preserve the fiction that the “peace process” is alive: 

“Hamdullah, dean at al-Najah University, is a Fatah party member (plus 1), is British-educated (plus 2), and an English professor (plus 3). In other words, he knows how to deal with the West and will hopefully keep the money rolling in but cannot do anything and won’t try. Hamdullah cannot negotiate even if he wanted to do so. He will ignore Western encouragements to return to the bargaining table but will keep accepting the checks and provide the PA with a moderate face that will gain public relations’ points with his British-accented English. …  Meanwhile, we will all wait for a year or two or three to see who Abbas’s successor will be. Abbas has long passed the end of his elected term without anyone in the West pointing out that his government is no longer legitimate. 

Next week, Abbas will begin the 102nd month of his 48-month term. He is midway through the ninth year of his four-year term. Later this year, he will break Arafat’s record for serving more months after his term expired than he did while legally in office. Who knew? 

The problems with the peace process, however, extend far beyond a figurehead prime minister, an illegitimate president, and a designated terrorist group in possession of half the putative Palestinian state (where the “prime minister” and “president” cannot set foot). For a Palestinian state to be part of a two-state solution, and not simply part of a two-stage plan, the minimal requirement is a Palestinian endorsement of “two states for two peoples” as the goal of the process. It is a declaration Abbas has steadfastly refused to make.  

On the contrary, as Evelyn Gordon noted today, he asserts the same claims the PLO has asserted from the beginning, and has repeatedly said he will “never” endorse a Jewish state. When there is a Palestinian leader ready to make a Bir Zeit speech to match Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan one, there may be a chance for a renewed peace process. But these days, the Palestinians cannot even hold an election, much less elect such a leader. All they can do is have their Potemkin president appoint a Potemkin prime minister. 

For those interested in the requirements of a successful peace process, this article in the Jewish Political Studies Review by Kobi Michael (deputy director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office) and Joel Fishman (a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs), on the need to bring the peace process back to basics, is essential reading.


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