Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Abbas wants peace -- with Hamas
The one thing we can perhaps take away from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the Arab League Summit in Kuwait on Tuesday is that he considers conciliation with Hamas to be much more important than conciliation with Israel.
It is doubtful this is what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had in mind when in March of last year he began his campaign of shuttle diplomacy in the region. Kerry intended to usher in peace between peoples. Abbas intends to arrange, perhaps in the best case scenario, peace among his own people.
His speech, in which he emphasized (again) that the PA (like the Arab League) will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, was especially combative. Abbas was warmly received in Kuwait, but he justified Jerusalem's concerns that even though he is perceived as a moderate (in relation to Hamas), he is not a partner. In the case of Abbas, however, it is a little difficult to predict whether his speech is the one step before everything blows up, or if he is perhaps preparing a surprise for us to assuage the third side in these negotiations -- the Americans.
Only a week ago, Abbas met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. The American president, who is wishing for his first public relations victory for his foreign policy, is pinning his hopes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of all things.
Obama called on Abbas to take risks. Israel isn't alone in not wanting to be seen as the side that caused the peace talks to fail -- the Palestinians don't either. The moment is nearing when Abbas will need to decide if he is a juggler seeking to appease the extremists in his own camp -- or a leader.
Old winds blew through the Middle East on Tuesday. In Ankara, Turkey's deputy prime minister issued a conciliatory statement, saying that the compensation agreement signed with Israel over the Mavi Marmara affair will more than likely result in the normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations. At the same time, the voices emanating from the Arab League in Kuwait were very belligerent toward Israel, just like the old days.
The problem is that in actuality we still don't have reconciliation with Turkey and the Arab League still loves playing that same old anthem, and Abbas still hasn't decided what is more important to him -- Israel or Hamas.
Based on his Kuwait speech, Abbas is still not a partner for peace, he is, at the most, a partner for talking.