Sunday, September 07, 2003

Abbas Resigns
I would have posted this when it was new, but I had trouble logging onto Blogger. As everyone now knows, Abbas has resigned as Prime Minister. The AP gives details of the resignation, and then throws in this little gem:

Such concessions by Israel, such as freezing the growth of settlements, might have strengthened Abbas in his power struggle with Arafat.

So of course it is Israel's fault for not doing more to support Abbas. The AFP has a different take. There, everyone thinks that the resignation is loss for the peace process.

Abbas' resignation provoked an outcry among international leaders, with the European Union condemning it was "a step backwards" for the peace process.
"The resignation of the Palestinian prime minister is a step backwards for the peace process, which was already doing badly, and is a clear demonstration that the more moderate side (of the Palestinian leadership) has lost," said Romano Prodi, president of the EU's executive arm, the European Commission.
"We are at one of the most critical moments" in the Mideast peace process, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Italy, saying he would leave for the region immediately to try to solve the crisis.
Concern was also expressed by senior US officials, who feared the move would slow down the peace process.
"The resignation of prime minister Abu Mazen (Abbas) will cause inevitable delays," US Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge said on Saturday.

However, no one explains why this is a loss. First, I don't think it is a big deal because Arafat was and still is the boss. If anything, it is slightly good because it puts the ball in Arafat's court. He has to make a decision. What will he do? Is he going to continue to be an obstructionist? (Well, duh.) The status quo is in Arafat's interest and this upsets the status quo. If PM after PM is undermined and fails to produce any reform or any peace, it should make it more clear that Arafat is the problem. From the AFP article:

By resigning, Abbas hoped Arafat would bow to international pressure and bring him back -- or bring in another prime minister with more authority, the New York Times reported Saturday.
Abbas was also gambling that his decision would force Arafat, Israel and Washington to take dramatic action to save the US-backed roadmap to peace.

Although the AFP disagrees, this is my interpretation. Arafat now has a problem to fix and there should be pressure for him to offer more authority to the PM whether it is Abbas or someone else. The JPost has a rather dark opinion piece saying Arafat has "won another battle." I would focus on this sentance instead:

If anything, Saturday's drama in Ramallah shows that Arafat has only one choice for leader: himself.

Hopefully Bush will stick to his Rose Garden speech and actually condition support on new palestinian leadership, as he promised:

I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts.

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