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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 7-Nov-2009
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says he'll step down following Hillary Clinton's statement on settlements

Web Log - November, 2009

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says he'll step down following Hillary Clinton's statement on settlements

Is it a tactical manoeuver or the end of an era?

Mahmoud Abbas was born in 1935 in what is now northern Israel. His family were among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the genocidal 1948 war between Palestinians and Jews that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.

So as a young teenager, Abbas and all his friends were fully exposed to the horrors of war all around them. This is the kind of "generational child abuse" that Generational Dynamics talks about. Kids who live through this kind of experience, like America's Silent Generation, grow up never wanting their own kids or grandkids to experience something so awful.

So when Abbas was elected President of the Palestinian Authority in January, 2005, it appeared to the world that the "Mideast problem" would finally be solved. Abbas was considered more "moderate" than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, and Abbas was committed to implementing the Mideast Roadmap to Peace that had been put forth by the Bush Administration in May, 2003. With Arafat gone, and Abbas in place as President, the Roadmap would finally be implemented, leading to two states, Israel and a Palestinian state, existing side by side in the Mideast, in eternal peace and happiness.

Actually, the euphoria surrounding Abbas's election was ridiculous, as were the unrealistically high expectations that Abbas had raised during the campaign. As I wrote at the time, one day he would speak in Arabic and promise the Palestinians the "right of return" to the lands occupied by the "Zionist enemy." The next day, he would speak in English, and promise to rid Palestine of the terrorists.

(The obvious comparison is with President Barack Obama, who made similarly extravagant and unrealistic campaign promises -- cure global warming, provide universal health care, close Guantanamo, leave Iraq in peace, bring a two-state solution to Palestinians and Israelis, beat the Taliban in Afghanistan, restore the stock market bubble, and dismantle President Bush's war against terror. Now we're seeing that he appears to be failing at every one of these promises.)

Instead of bringing peace, Abbas's presidency has only made things worse. There have been three "small" wars: Israelis vs Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006, Palestinian Fatah vs Hamas in Gaza in 2008, and Israelis vs Hamas in Gaza in 2009. There's no reduction in tension whatsoever, and it's only a matter of time before one of these small wars triggers a larger war.

The latest crisis occurred because one of President Obama's unrealistic promises intersected with one of President Abbas's unrealistic promises. Since taking office, President Obama has demanded that the Israelis stop building settlements on land that would be part of the Palestinian nation under the Roadmap to Peace. As recently as June, in his speech in Cairo, directed to the Muslim world, President Obama said, "At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

But the Obama administration appeared to change policy last week, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised as "unprecedented" Israelís compromise offer to slow down, but not stop, construction of settlements.

This change of position has infuriated may Arabs and Palestinians, and it triggered Abbas's decision to step down as President. Abbas put it as diplomatically as possible when he said,

"We pledged, us and the Israelis, with the participation and sponsorship of the international community, to reach a two-state solution. But month after month, year after year, there was procrastination and the increase of Jewish settlement and Israeli settlement on our land, which compromises the credibility of negotiations. ...

The stated position of the United States in relation to settlements and the Judaisation and annexation of Jerusalem are well-known and appreciated by us. However, we were surprised by their favoring of the Israeli position. But the problem which requires a solution is ... the ongoing Israeli settlement activities in all of the West Bank and especially in occupied East Jerusalem, which is facing an unprecedented change to its character."

It's impossible to know at this time if Abbas seriously plans to step down, or whether he's using the threat of stepping down as a negotiating strategy.

If Abbas does stop down and is replaced by someone younger, it will be the end of an era. Someone younger will certainly be more demanding and confrontational than Abbas, and this will change the political climate in the Mideast.

As I've been saying since 2003, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a major crisis war in the Mideast, re-fighting the genocidal 1940s war between Arabs and Jews. I speculated in 2003 that the death of Yasser Arafat would trigger such a war, but although things have gotten steadily worse since Arafat's death, the major war is yet to come.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Mideast thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (7-Nov-2009) Permanent Link
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