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Monday, October 20, 2014

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One meeting missing

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With his agenda full of meetings, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud has been a very busy man this week. 

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns visited him on Sunday bringing a message from U.S. President Barack Obama regarding Abbas’ impending plan to form a unity government with Hamas. According to reports, the Americans emphasized to the PA leader that they will deal with such a unity government only if it accepts the conditions that the Quartet (the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia) have sought – in vain – from Hamas, namely, recognition of Israel, honouring past agreements bilateral agreements and rejecting violence and the use of terror. 

Hamas has repeatedly and abjectly refused to accede to the Quartet’s demands. It surely will not do so to appease Abbas. 

Yet, by proceeding with his desire to reconcile with Hamas without Hamas, and feigning to reconcile with the idea of a Jewish State of Israel, Abbas is once again contemptuously poking his finger in the U.S. president’s eye. Except for a few ephemeral moments of support from the unthinking Palestinian man on the street, it is hard to understand what he stands to gain from this latest of his many misguided manoeuvres. He must also know that PA-Hamas unity will mean the departure of Salim Fayyad, whom the Quartet – and especially the Americans – champion as prime minister.

In addition to disappointment and betrayal, the State Department probably also feels a sense of alarm at Abbas’ impending outreach to Hamas, since without a reformed Hamas, every effort at peace will stop dead in its tracks.

King Abdullah II of Jordan is also very likely feeling disquiet and alarm rising in his gut, for he, too, met with Abbas this week. The king came to Ramallah on Monday to talk with the PA leader. It was his first visit to the West Bank since 2000.

To the extent that Abdullah is held in high regard in the West Bank, the meeting between the two men and the resultant photo opportunity sent a strong message of support for Abbas in the West Bank. To be sure, that was one of the key purposes of Abdullah’s visit. But there is no doubt another key purpose of the king’s visit was to deliver a forthright message to the Palestinian leader regarding Hamas. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the PA both are imperilled no less than the Jewish State of Israel by an ascendant radical, violent, fundamentalist, Islamist Hamas.

Later in the week, Abbas was scheduled to meet with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political wing, to explore the possibility of forming a unity government. 

It is a sad shame and a great loss to his people that, amid his many meetings this week, Abbas could not find the time to squeeze in one with the prime minister of Israel. Of all the meetings, it could have brought Palestinians the greatest benefit.

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