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ELECTION RHETORIC OR YASSER ARAFAT, REINCARNATED?

Mahmoud Abbas: ‘If Elected President, I Will Not Disarm Terrorists Of Weapons!’

Analyst David Essing: ‘Litmus Test For Abbas Will Come After Election: Armed Palestinian Terrorists May Make Or Break Roadmap’

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Presidential front-runner has added to his list of hard-line statement in the run-up to the January 9th election. Abbas says if elected, he will not disarm the terrorists as stipulated in the Roadmap peace proposal and as demanded by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Mahmoud Abbas continues to talk tough in the Palestinian election campaign. Is he paying lip-service to the terrorists in order to get elected, or is he following in the footsteps of Yasser Arafat?

Abbas or Abu Mazen sounds more and more like his predecessor Abu Amar that is, Yasser Arafat. But is he demanding the return of the refugees to Israel, the tearing down of the security fence, Jerusalem as Palestinian capital and now no disarming the terrorists, simply to get elected; or does he really mean it? Israeli officials will likely give Abbas the benefit of the doubt until after he takes office. Then, it will be a different story and the real Mahmoud Abbas will have to stand up and reveal what he has in mind. Prime Minister Sharon has made clear he expects the Palestinian leader to honor the Roadmap’s first stage and dismantle the terrorist organizations. Sharon sources say there must be ‘no short-cuts’ and ‘no recycling’ of the Oslo process. Sharon will not agree to Abbas carving out some kind of ‘Hudna’ cease-fire with the terrorists, leaving them in place with their weapons. Yasser Arafat employed this strategy during the Oslo process; it eventually erupted into a wave of suicide bombers and more than five thousand attacks over the last four years. From Sharon’s point of view, the first job of ‘President Abbas’ will be to start reining in the terrorists and taking control of all official Palestinian para-military forces.

Terrorists

Coalition Building & Gridlock TheoryThe torturous roadmap to a new Israeli coalition is apparently reaching its end. Detours galore have confounded the process. It looks as if this is what has been happening: After Sharon cajoled his Likud party into accepting left-wing Labor into the cabinet along with United Torah Judaism, every side has been trying to squeeze as much as it can out of the deal. 1. Sharon could not offer Labor any of top cabinet jobs for fear of rocking the boat with Likudniks still smarting over Labor’s entry. Labor’s Shimon Peres had to react, or maybe wanted to respond, by digging in his heels and demanding the position of Sharon’s deputy, instead of the Likud’s Ehud Olmert. There is no way the Likud would have accepted the possibility of Peres taking over if Sharon were incapacitated; but never mind, Peres fights the good fight for as long as possible and then quietly backs off.

MK Moshe Gafni

2. United Torah Judaism - Ultra-orthodox Shas chooses to stand pat for a while to see how the disengagement develops with the Palestinians. If it literally blows up, Shas can cash in at the next election; it competes with the Likud for right wing voters. UTJ has its own solid constituency not tied into the disengagement issue per se. Therefore, UTJ can negotiate for its own sectorial interests: government funding and autonomy for its educational institutions. After pushing Likud negotiators to the brink, UTJ got what it wanted; or did they? MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni now says UTJ is not certain where it stands with the Likud’s chief negotiator MK Gidon Saar, who actually opposes the disengagement, the very raison d’etre for the new coalition in the first case. If this were not enough, the party’s Council of Torah Sages may also have some second thoughts about disengagement. It boils down to everyone doing their thing in this free-for-all of principles vs. pragmatic politics. Sharon, from his lofty perch at the top of public opinion polls, can again cajole everybody, including the ‘Likud Rebel-Loyalists’ loyalists, by threatening an early election, which nobody really wants at this time.

David Essing

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