With less than a week left until the "elections" for a new Palestinian leader, it is interesting to take a look at what is going on. At this point it is fairly clear that these are not the type of elections envisaged by the people who want true reform. Abu Mazen was, in effect, chosen to be the successor to Arafat. Having persuaded his main rival Marwan Barghouti not to run, most likely with promises to not crack down on the armed gangs or other such enticements, he is realistically unopposed. This is not at all dissimilar from the "election" of 1996 which confirmed Arafat as the President of the PA. Undoubtedly, Jimmy Carter and his election monitors will declare that the election was run fairly and legitimately and the world will have to accept this "election
" as the Palestinians abiding by the demand for political reform.
In the meantime, Abu Mazen is clearly stating
that he will protect the Palestinian gunmen, i.e. terrorists, and will not crack down on Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or any of the other terror groups. It is possible that this merely an election ploy; that it would not be possible for Abu Mazen to win without kowtowing to the terrorist elements (though Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad head believes that Abu Mazen is telling the truth
in this). But what then does this say about the Palestinians? Isn't this the clearest indication that they do not want and are not ready for peace?
Despite all the optimism of a new opportunity presented by the death of Arafat, one is left to wonder what has really been achieved. It seems that we are once again going back to the formula of the Oslo years - the Palestinians pretending to abide by the agreements they make, with the world accepting these pretenses and pressuring Israel to make real and irreversible concessions. Hopefully the Bush Administration will see through this and not allow it to happen again.
UPDATE: And now, Abbas is promising
that all the "refugees" will return to their "original homes" in Israel. If Halevy is right, and this is what Abbas really believes, as opposed to just saying this for the election, what is the point of negotiating with him?