Abbas needs to be backed
By Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh
In the Arab world, most people who talk or write about the envisaged involvement of Palestinians in direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions or a clear roadmap express either much fear or much scepticism.
While these are justified to a degree, they should not prevent the Arabs from backing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fully, since go he will.
The fear and the scepticism stem from a number of reasons. First, the Palestinians are not in the best of positions because of the paralysing division between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. It is indeed a big shame that after seven decades of Palestinian-Israeli conflict the Palestinians are still divided in ways that affect them negatively.
There is a difference between a Palestinian president going to negotiations with all Palestinians rallying behind him and one leaving behind a divided house.
Second, many people have doubts about the present Israeli government’s seriousness about peace or about its sense of honesty and fairness.
Will the present Israeli government see the Palestinians as true peace partners (and thus exercise a degree of fairness in tackling issues and show an acceptable degree of sympathy with Palestinian demands), or will it view the talks as an opportunity to dupe the Palestinians again?
There is a big difference between negotiating in good faith, and attempting to coerce and pressure. Many view Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as seeking to do the latter.
Third, Israel’s insistence that Palestinians come to the negotiating table with no “preconditions” or framework is seen by many as divorcing matters from their vital contexts.
Israelis and Palestinians have been negotiating peace (on and off) for almost two decades now. The Arab-Israeli conflict is older than seven decades. Several important advances, legal documents, resolutions (including those of the UN), agreements, have been reached. Should all these be ignored, and the negotiators start from square one? This does not seem to be logical at all.
Indeed, there are many compelling reasons why Abbas should not be going to direct negotiations under these conditions. Having said that, however, and since the Palestinian president is going to the negotiating table anyway, it is not useful to keep talking about Palestinian involvement in the negotiations as a mistake, and about the uselessness of such talks - dooming the outcome to failure even before the start of the negotiations.
What is useful is for the Arab countries to exercise all diplomacy, to exert all possible efforts and all pressure, both regionally and internationally, to enable Abbas to succeed in his mission.
There is much the Arabs can do, in terms of diplomatic dialogue and pressure, which would make Abbas’ presence at the negotiating table stronger and more assertive.
There are so many advocates of peace in the US, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world (even in Israel itself) whose help should be rallied to enable the Palestinians to achieve an honourable result from the talks.
If Abbas is going without Hamas’ backing, at least he should go with enough Arab backing. What the Palestinians need now is concrete support, not cynicism or subversive criticism.