Ramzy Baroud:Toward another Oslo
- Abbas may be leading Palestinians toward another Oslo
By RAMZY BAROUD - Miami Herald May 2, 2003
Mahmoud Abbas' government was approved by the Palestinian Parliament
on April 29. Palestinians finally have their own prime minister.
As a result, Palestinian society has been consumed with an intense
debate. In the forefront of the debate was the personal legacy of
Abbas himself, seen as the first real challenge to the authority of
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Arafat has rarely been challenged from within his own ranks. Israel
schemed for years to undermine his influence among his people, but it
failed. In fact, opinion polls have shown that Arafat's popularity
surges during Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinians, especially if
Arafat becomes a target.
Opposition groups such as Hamas as well as independent politicians
have failed to present a challenge to Arafat. Some are not interested
in presenting themselves as alternatives, and others, although
respected, haven't been given the chance to prove their capability to
Within Arafat's circle, Abbas' challenge is unprecedented. Abbas is
different because his emergence is the outcome of two simultaneous
movements -- one genuine, the other political. The genuine movement
was the Palestinian people's desire for true reforms and democracy.
The other came out of the so-called road map for peace initiative.
The Palestinians' call for reforms emerged shortly after the birth of
the Palestinian Authority. Reforms have been strongly emphasized in
recent months, following the Israeli reoccupation of the major urban
centers in the West Bank in March 2002 and again last June.
While the Palestinian resistance put up a good fight, the PA
scrambled with uncertainty and apparently without a Plan B.
Accusations were exchanged among Palestinian officials, with some
vowing to ''resist until the end'' and others willing to talk with
Israel without conditions and to comprise -- even though virtually
nothing on which to compromise was left.
A split took place in the PA, reflecting a reality that was always
present but was never displayed so openly. That split subsequently
was reflected in the Fatah movement -- the largest PLO faction and
the leadership base for the PA.
One Fatah faction is concerned more about national unity among
Palestinian movements. It refuses to negotiate under occupation and
settlement expansion, and it demands an end to the assassination
policy of Israel. This faction believes in the continuing attacks
targeting Israeli forces and armed settlers, yet it believes in
Israel's right to exist and candidly preaches co-existence under a
just and peaceful formula.
The leaders of this segment either have been assassinated or
arrested, or are on Israel's wanted list. Marwan Barghouti, an
elected Palestinian member of Parliament who is now in an Israeli
prison, is the leader of this movement.
Another Fatah faction, now emerging more forcefully, is represented
by Abbas, who made a few friends upon his return to the occupied
territories from exile following the signing of the Oslo Accord in
1993. He was one of the engineers of the accord, which Palestinians
now regard as one of the worst decisions made by their leadership.
His wealth, crowned by his $1.5 million villa in Gaza -- one of the
poorest spots on earth -- evoked objections and bitter questions.
The intifada was a direct response to the unfairness of Oslo and led
to the marginalization of Abbas during its first year. But in its
second year, he again was on the scene, demanding an end to all
violence and calling for disarming Palestinian groups and for
unconditional return to the negotiation table. He indicated his
willingness to compromise on fundamental issues that had ignited
the Palestinian struggle, especially the discounting of Palestinian
rights in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians were increasingly demanding PA reforms
that would create accountability on all levels and achieve an
equitable political governance representing all Palestinians.
The loud voices demanding reforms were heard as Israel -- and
consequently the United States -- called for Palestinian reforms as
well. But Israel's desire for reforms was motivated by entirely
different reasons, primarily aimed at fighting the intifada with
Palestinian resources. Until the present intifada, Israel was
considerably successful in this regard.
Through all this, the Palestinians' objectives remain as clear as
always: an end to the Israeli occupation and the dismantling of
settlements on their land. They are interested neither in ending
their intifada nor subscribing to the political system of imposed
democracies. Their indifference or rejection of Abbas represents
their rejection of the political situation that his reemergence
brought about, which, as far as Palestinians are concerned, is yet
Palestinians have paid a heavy price to rectify the futility of Oslo.
Will they choose to go down that same road (map) again?
Ramzy Baroud is the editor-in-chief of The Palestine Chronicle.
NEWS AND VIEWS DISTRIBUTED HERE ARE THE AUTHOR'S RESPONSIBILITY
AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE OPINION OF WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Yahoo ads are not under WVNS control.