Today Mahmoud Abbas begins the ninth year of his four-year term, having originally taken office on January 15, 2005, after a quickie election held a few weeks after Yasir Arafat died in the ninth year of his own four-year term. As Daled Amos notes, “it’s nice work if you can get it.”
Palestinian democracy has been a bit of a disappointment: each of the peace-partner presidents were offered a state on virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem, and each of them walked away. Each time, the Palestinian public not only did not protest their president’s rejection of “the long overdue Palestinian state”; they did not even demand another presidential election when the presidential terms expired. Like his predecessor, Abbas will end up serving as president longer after his term expired than when he was legally in office.
Since another Palestinian election is not likely any time soon, we must rely on the latest poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research for a picture of Palestinian public opinion. The poll indicates Abbas would be defeated by the Hamas candidate if a new presidential election were held, and that 56 percent of Palestinians would oppose a final-status agreement involving: (1) Israeli withdrawal from more than 97 percent of the West Bank and a land swap for the rest; (2) a Palestinian state with a “strong security force” (but no army) and a multinational force; (3) sovereignty over land, water, and airspace, but an Israeli right to use airspace for training and maintain two West Bank early-warning stations for 15 years; (4) a capital in East Jerusalem, including all Arab neighborhoods and most of the Old City; and (5) a “right of return” for refugees to the new state and compensation for “refugeehood.”
The tragedy of Palestinian democracy was apparent two years ago; last year the portrait of Palestinian democracy got even worse; this year it has deteriorated still further, as it becomes even clearer that being elected Palestinian president means you never have to run again; that if an election were held, the candidate of the premier Palestinian terrorist group would prevail; that the Palestinians still reject even the “Everyone Knows” peace plan; and that the problem with Palestinian democracy extends far beyond the specific individuals elected in the two Potemkin presidential elections held so far.