Wednesday, August 20, 2003

SHOWDOWN FOR ABBAS
Al Quds newspaper (Arabic only) reports that Israeli tanks are surrounding Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus, preparing for a retaliatory strike in response to yesterday's horrible, dispicable and deadly bus bombing in Jerusalem, which took the life of 20 people, making it one of the deadliest terrorist bombing of the al-Aqsa Intifada. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas is trying to avoid any Israeli response: he's putting forth four demands to Yasser Arafat and is threathening with a resignation of the full cabinet if the demands are not met. This shows that Abbas himself has not yet gained control over the security forces and that Arafat still runs the show from Ramallah. Haaretz details the demands:

  • That he and the Fatah central committee present a written declaration supporting action by the Palestinian Authority against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

  • That he support moves to dismantle the armed wings of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

  • That he authorize direct steps against the two groups, such as a ban on media appearances, action against affiliated organisations and action to block funding.

  • That Arafat unite all the Palestinian security organizations under one authority, the interior ministry.
  • In another unprecedented move, the Palestinian Authority is banning any interviews with Hamas, Islamic Jihad or al-Aqsa members. Earlier in the day, Abbas ordered the arrest of suspects involved in yesterday's bombing.

    This is the moment of truth for Mahmoud Abbas, yes. I'm not sure he can do it all alone though. He definitely needs help from the Bush administration, or the State Department for that matter.. He's going to need to have some cooperation from the Israelis but this is a moment of truth from two perspectives, one in terms of his role in charge of the Palestinian Authority but also vis-a-vis Arafat. Will he be able to proceed with the direction he clearly wants to go or will Arafat block his way? If Arafat does so, then I think the prognosis is going to be extremely bad for the Palestinians, and in specific for Abbas.

    Abbas has to deliver and do it fast. Not only in response to violence, but something tangible for the Palestinian people. Palestinians look back at the hudna since June 29 and they see that 32 Palestinians have been killed, that incursions have continued, that home demolitions have gone on and on, that only car thiefs and common criminals were not released and they see no tangible results. They see Abbas as a puppet who pays lip service but never really delivered the goods. Both the U.S. and Israel need to show the people that there is improvement in these impoverished territories. They need to show some good will, a measure of good will to stop the settlement activities as has been called for in the road map, which still hasn't happened. I believe if that happens, if we move in the direction as laid out, then Abbas has a chance of survivability. Otherwise, he's doomed.

    UPDATE: Haaretz: Two dead, four injured in Tul Karm. IDF enters Jenin. IDF enters Nablus; engages in shooting. One Palestinian teenager reported dead.

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