Last Update, Monday, November 16
The Palestinian Election Commission has informed President Mahmoud Abbas it would be unable to carry out the January 24 election. The Commission recommended the election be postponed.
The election had been ordered earlier by President Abbas.
At a press conference in Ramallah, Elections Commission Chairman Dr. Hanna Nasser, said:
We have faced obstacles in the Gaza Strip and in Jerusalem. We’ve sat with all the political factions and the picture has become clear after these meetings: Elections are impossible to hold.
The Commission is independent of Mr. Abbas’ government. It was initially created by former PA leader Yasir Arafat. After its reappointment by President Abbas, the Commission directed the 2006 legislative elections.
Abbas has already announced that in any future presidential election, he would not be a candidate for reelection. Why should he? Abbas knows the reality of American politics.
Philip Weiss offers an answer in his Mondoweiss blog, which covers “American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective”:
When people ask why Obama has capitulated to the prime minister of a tiny state– Bibi Netanyahu– various theories are offered about Health care first, or the economy, or Afghanistan, or oil.
Few say directly: Netanyahu feels invulnerable because of the Israel lobby in the US . . .you cannot be plain about this matter without addressing the idea of Jewish influence. Israelis are often more plain about this.
Anshel Pfeffer wrote in Haaretz the other day, “the most significant joint endeavor of America’s Jews [is] six decades of unswerving support for the Israeli government of the day.” I.e., a hammerlock on U.S. policy.
It is not as though this is new information in this country. (Think Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer). It is information the US Main Stream Media carefully avoids mentioning.
On a visit to the US this past summer, Former Israeli Knesset speaker Avraham Burg was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now (definitely not part of the MSM). He was quite blunt about the Lobby’s influence.
Weiss reminds his readers that at a public event at the New York Public Library during that visit:
Burg described “two structures” built by Jews, one being Israel, the other “the semi-autonomous American Jewry, which was not here 150 years ago– powerful influence, access to the corridors of power, impact on the culture, and civilization… plus the infrastructure of the community of solidarity and fraternity and support system and education etc.”
While readers and viewers of the MSM continue to live in blissful ignorance of the realities of the situation facing Palestinians, President Abbas discovered that the hope he had placed in President Obama has been washed away by Obama’s capitulation to the Lobby and Bibi.
When his term expires in January, 2010, Abbas could resign as president, leaving the office empty. Or he could remain in office until elections are held at some indefinite point in the future.
Should Abbas resign, the Palestinian Authority’s constitution calls for the office of the president to be assumed by Dr. Aziz Ad-Dweik, who earned a PhD from the University of Pennsylvainia in regional sciences, a mixture of urban studies, sociology and economics.
Rest assured, Dr. Dweik also follows the reality of US politics very closely. Who is this man who is next-in-line to run the Palestinian Authority?
According to the right wing web site Campus Watch, which “monitors” Middle Eastern studies program on US campus for any hint of anti-Israel perfidy, Dwiek came to the US to pursue his doctorate in 1985 with a “scholarship from the American government”. In those days, Israel was promoting (and funding) Hamas as an alternative to Yasir Arafat’s PLO.
After returning home from Pennsylvania, Dweik found that the PLO had replaced Hamas and had become Israel’s new favorite political ally. He spent four months in an Israeli prison and a year as a deportee on the southern Lebanese border before he made it back to Gaza.
Dweik is currently the parliamentarian from the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform Party.He was elected speaker of the PLC after the Palestinian elections in January 2006. Counting heavily on a Fatah victory, the US and Israel had urged Hamas and Fatah to hold the elections, which were monitored by international officials, led by former President Carter.
When Hamas won a legislative majority in the elections, (no surprise to close observers of Palestinian politics) the result was repudiated by both the US and Israel.
During a press conference reported by The Palestinian Information Center website, Dweik said he was prepared to assume the presidency, should Abbas resign.
Future elections would be impossible without the backing of both Hamas and Fatah, the two political parties that last competed in the 2006 elections. Dweik was active on the reconciliation front this week, endorsing an Egyptian plan to bring the two parties together. He expresses more optimism than exists in the Fatah camp.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera Arabic, Dweik said:
Hamas leaders had secured Egyptian guarantees that they would take into account Hamas’ reservations on the [reconciliatiion] issue, and would list them on the sidelines of the reconciliation paper, which would be signed by both parties.
He assured Al-Jazeera that political activity ensuring the end of Palestinian division was ongoing.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians’ future remains under the absolute control of Israel’s military occupation. That occupation is supported financially and politically by the US and the Israel Lobby. It is this control that keeps President Abbas and the government he leads,deep in the darkness of their political Purgatory.
Searching for some way out of this Purgatory, the Palestinian Institute for Politics and Strategic Studies held a brainstorming session Tuesday to discuss the logistics involved in Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to establish a Palestinian state in two years. The Fayyad plan, which he prefers to call a “program”, was released on August 25 this year.
Nabil Qassis, Principal of Birzeit University, who convened the session, described the plan as “serious agenda,” and a “turning point in the way the [Palestinian Authority] PA thinks.” No longer, he said, is the “occupation a pretext for failure.”
Attending the conference were Palestinian professionals, politicians, community officials and members of of the Palestinian parliament. No one attended from Gaza, which remains in an indefinite lock down by the Israeli army.
Participants discussed both the possibilities and drawbacks of Fayyad’s plan, which he calls, “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.”
One participant, Deputy Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Abd Ar-Rahim Mallouh described the plan as the tosssing of a “big stone in the quiet political puddle”.
He saw the plan as a way to bridge the political gap in Palestinian politics. But he also noted its major drawback: There cannot be an independent Palestinian state that is under Israeli occupation. “A Palestinian state must reach an agreement with Israel” in order to lay aside the paradox, he said.
Mustafa Barghouthi, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, described the plan as essentially “national duty” in its aims to realize Palestinian freedoms, the right of return and the right to Jerusalem.
“We should be aware that statehood is not dependent on the occupation’s will; we have to adopt the same means of peaceful resistance as in the first Palestinian Intifada.
Barghouthi adds that with the plan, Palestinians must “breach our commitment to the Oslo division of the Palestinian territories into A, B, and C zones.” (Separate areas that retained Israeli control over the territories with limited or no Palestinian involvement).
“We must build foundations in all zones, and start free trade internationally,” Barghouthi said.
The author of the Fayyad Plan drew attention this week from Helen Cobban, a veteran Middle East Correspondent, formerly with the Christian Science Monitor. She has launched a new blog, ‘“Fair Policy, Fair Discussion” for the Washington-based Council for the National Interest Foundation, for which she serves as director.
Cobban is currently traveling to the region with an NIF delegation, which conducted an off the record discussion with Fayyad, whom Cobban described as “very pro American”. The group also met with Ziad Abu Amr, a political independent who was foreign minister in the PA’s short-lived national unity government in 2007.
Cobban describes Amr as “a close confidante” of President Abbas”. Both Fayyad and Amr were “extremely gloomy” and both expressed a strong sense of how they feel “the whole of the PA’s very pro-American leadership now feels deeply betrayed by the Obama administration.”
Abu Amr underscored that feeling of betrayal, telling the group:
Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] has been playing completely by the book. The PA has been killing Palestinians to prove that he is prepared to serve Israel’s security interests. What did he get in return? Only a continuation of setttlements, home demolitions, land expropriations… If this continues, he will not and should not continue in office.
Cobban writes that in the group’s discussion with Abu Amr, he concluded:
Abu Mazen feels betrayed and fooled by the Americans… There is no way the Palestinians can do any more than they have done… If Abu Mazen resigns under circumstances of crisis, then no one could replace him– or, would want to…
The problem is, the Americans have abandoned the Road Map. What Hillary Clinton said about the Israeli government having made “unprecedented concessions” was against the Road Map, against Annapolis, and against Oslo.
Political leaders in both Gaza and the West Bank are struggling to find a way out of the Political Purgatory into which their own past conduct, but more importantly their betrayal by the United States. has plunged them. Only the president of the United States retains the power to release them from that Purgatory. It is past time for him to act.
President Abbas’ picture is a Getty image. Hanna Nasser’s picture is from the AFP’s Abbas Momani. Aziz Dweik’s picture is from The Palestinian Information Center.