Friday, January 14, 2005

Cutting Ties

The election of Mahmoud Abbas heralds an increasingly hopeful time in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and seems to have been the best possible outcome of the election. Even if some bloggers and pundits relentlessly harp on him and point out ridiculous and dangerous things he has said in the past, it is simply a fact that he is more moderate than Arafat and more inclined to negotiations. Unfortunately, a lot of people on the right will always criticize somebody in Abbas's position merely for being a Palestinian leader, and it is certainly an unfair double-standard that Abbas will be judged by the actions of the worst element of Palestinian extremists, when the same is not done of Sharon. Israel can no longer claim that it has no serious negotiating partner, as has long been their stance (more justifiable when Arafat was in power). Thus, this news is particularly troubling:

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the suspension of all contacts with the Palestinian Authority on Friday, following an attack by Palestinian gunmen that killed six Israelis civilians, Israeli officials said...The Karni attack, and Israel's response, follow the election of Mahmoud Abbas as the new president of the Palestinian Authority, and observers speculated that the attack was intended as a challenge to show Abbas that he cannot control militants in Gaza...Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he got a call from Sharon's office. He said he asked the Israelis not to suspend contacts. "You cannot hold Mahmoud Abbas accountable when he hasn't even been inaugurated yet," he said.

This is pretty unbelievable. Like I said above, Abbas is judged according to the actions of a few people who are not even necessarily loyal to him. In fact, the attack was likely mounted as a challenge to his ascension. So what is the benefit of cutting off contacts with him? Sure, he will issue a denunciation and communication will resume, but Israel acting like this only weakens the Palestinian Authority (which, contrary to what some might say, is not good for Israel).

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