How Mahmoud Abbas Crushed Palestinian Hopes for Democracy

Jan. 10 2019

Yesterday marked the fourteenth anniversary of Mahmoud Abbas’s election to the presidency of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a four-year term. Not only have no subsequent elections for the presidency been held, but no elections for the Palestine Legislative Council, the PA’s parliament, have taken place since 2006. Abbas has now taken the additional step of formally dissolving that already-defunct body. Elliott Abrams marks the missed opportunity for Palestinian democracy:

That 2005 election was a milestone for Palestinians. Yasir Arafat had died the previous November, and this election was to choose his successor as head of the PA. It was a good election—free and fair in the sense that the votes were counted accurately and people could campaign against Abbas, [who] won only about 62 percent of the vote (compare this to Egypt’s President Sisi’s ludicrous claim to have won 97 percent of the vote in the 2018 election there). One challenger won 20 percent. Hamas boycotted the election, but was not forced to do so. . . .

[W]hat Abbas has done since the last election, in 2006, is to gut the development of Palestinian democratic institutions. There are excuses, of course: Hamas is too dangerous and might win as it did in 2006, Israel is to blame, and so on. But in fact Abbas is snuffing out all opposition to his rule and forbidding all dissent. . . .

[T]he 2005 election and the parliamentary election the following year marked the high-water mark of democracy in the West Bank. As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade. He has outlawed politics in the West Bank. Under the guise of fighting Hamas, he has forbidden any criticism of the corrupt rule [of his] Fatah party and prevented any debate on the Palestinian future. Just as Arafat soon eliminated all independent institutions when he returned to the Palestinian territories in 1994, Abbas has crushed the hopes that arose—after Arafat’s death in 2004 and his own election in 2005—for a democratic future for Palestinians.

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Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Arab democracy, Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs

 

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East