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Massive International Effort Underway To Shore Up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Emergency Summit Hosted By Egypt Indicates President Mubarak's Concern Over Rise Of Iranian-Backed Gaza On His Border

After Voting For Hamas In Election, Will West Bank Palestinians Forego Terrorism & Support Abbas Peace Talks With Israel?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Amit Shabi)

The rush is on to retrieve whatever is possible out of the Palestinian rubble in the wake of the Hamas takeover in Gaza. IsraCast perceives it as an international rescue mission to 'engineer' a separate Fatah peace partner headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. In light of performance record of president Mahmoud Abbas and his failure to halt repeated terror attacks and suicide bombings from the West Bank, the outcome is hard to foresee.

In Washington, President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saw eye to eye on immediate steps to shore up Abbas and his regime, backed by his dominant Fatah on the West Bank. Now that Hamas, by its own hand, abdicated its control of the Palestinian government in the eyes of the world. Olmert has released up to $400 million in Palestinian tax monies to Abbas and promised to ease some security restrictions on the West Bank. Egypt, concerned about the real and present Iranian danger in Gaza, is to host a summit at Sharm el Sheik with Jordan's King Abdullah, Olmert and Abbas. President Hosni Mubarak has apparently been shocked by the radical Islamist coup in his backyard, fearing it could spill over to his own radical Islamists, the Muslim Brothers. Ironically, by failing to block Hamas arms smuggling into Gaza from Sinai, Egypt shares part of the responsibility for the Hamas coup. Jordan's King Abdullah is also worried about Hamas making inroads on the West Bank and with Palestinians in Jordan where they comprise a majority of the population.

Massive foreign aid has been resumed to Abbas and the West Bank - the embargo was imposed after Hamas was elected to power in 2006 because Hamas not only refused to recognize Israel but, like its sponsor Iran, vowed to destroy it. At the emergency summit, the Abbas rescue mission can be expected to take off in the effort to block a radical Islamist takeover of the West Bank as well and to suppress what has already transpired in Gaza. But the question remains, will good will gestures and concessions to West Bank Palestinians suffice to build a bulwark against Hamas? The renowned Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami is doubtful. Writing in the International Herald Tribune of June 20th, Ajami notes that Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat who refused Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David:

'But it was too much to ask of Arafat to return to his people with a decent and generous compromise, to bid farewell to the legend that the Palestinian people could have it all: 'from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean)'.

Yasser Arafat

'After Arafat's death, the mantle passed to a fairly decent man , Mahmoud Abbas... free of Arafat's megalomania, and he seemed to cap the volcano: he promised as he put it, ' one law, one authority , one gun ' in the Palestinian street. But Abbas has never been a master of his world; by the time he had been given political stewardship the culture of the Palestinian world had succumbed to a terrifying cult of violence'.

This is the backdrop to the events unfolding now in the Palestinian areas and Ajami concludes that Fatah is no less responsible than Hamas:

'It isn't a pretty choice between Hamas and Fatah. Indeed, it was the reign of plunder and arrogance that Fatah imposed during its years of primacy that gave Hamas its power and room for maneuver'.

'Nablus in the West Bank is no more amenable in reason than is Gaza; the writ of the pitiless preachers and gunmen is the norm in both places'.

So will good will gestures be enough to persuade West Bank Palestinians to stand firmly behind Abbas not only in a brutal power struggle between Hamas and Fatah but also in the Palestinian President's rejection of terrorism and engaging in peace talks with Israel. And if so, is it possible to build a Palestinian consensus that will accept a Jewish state; even Abbas has never indicated that he does. Abbas supports the the so-called right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, something that would destroy Israel as a Jewish state.

The Hamas coup has injected a new sense of urgency into the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and it is hard to foresee the behavior of the religious fanatics who are egged on by Iran. For example, Strella ground to air missiles have been smuggled into Gaza but never fired at Israeli aircraft. Such an incident, another abduction, or a deadly rocketing of Sderot would pose an intolerable situation for Defense Minister Ehud Barak. But with the international community including the Arab world and Israel deeply committed, the goal is to rev up some momentum to stem the spreading of radical Islam. Everyone, Israel included will play a role. However, vital as the Palestinian meltdown has become, the main event may still be coming up - that is what to do about Iran's drive for nuclear weapons if the sanctions campaign fails?

David Essing

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