Give the Man a Chance
January 7, 2005
A new Palestinian leadership is about to be democratically elected. The public legitimacy in the eyes of the people of the coming leadership’s competence is the key for Abu Mazen to be able to address the main issues that concern the public. For this there must be very high voter turnout. He must be able to claim a full mandate of the people for his policies and for the national agenda that he has presented. The Palestinians should not by their own choice not participate and by doing so relinquish the hopes for a better future. We Palestinians should all participate in the democratic process, this is not only our right, it is our obligation!
Abu Mazen has been criticized and attacked recently by Israeli officials for reiterating and reminding the Israeli government and the world of the Palestinian ethos and rights. His statements have been distorted and described as a being part of a legacy of terror. Moreover, some Israeli and Western observers commented that by mentioning the Palestinian National ethos and rights, Abu Mazen has engaged in some form of incitement. This leads us to wonder, what are the Israeli government’s criteria for a suitable Palestinian leader? Do Israeli officials hope that the Palestinians will elect a Palestinian Zionist with an Israeli agenda to lead them? These observers apparently have forgotten the speech of Ariel Sharon at the Herzilya conference in which he demolished the hopes for a new era after the elections by conditioning the resumption of the political process on an agreement that there will be no final status agenda. Instead of only criticizing Palestinian leaders, the Israeli government should also work on ending the escalation of the tensions – one only needs to examine the list of casualties over the last weeks and question – is this Israeli restraint? Is this how Israel expects to get back to the negotiations table? Abu Mazen has stated his position on the rockets and mortars in Gaza. He has stated that he intends on tackling this issue directly. He has stated that he plans to implement the Palestinian obligations of the Road Map. Does the Israeli government intend to sabotage his efforts once again? They should give the man the chance to assert his authority first and to enable him to move ahead with his policies towards a new future.
What Abu Mazen has stated are the minimum principle rights of the Palestinian ethos. There is no Palestinian leader would can give in on of these basic rights – they form the central unifying elements of Palestinian identity. If Abu Mazen would concede on these basic rights – Jerusalem, statehood in the 1967 borders, refugee rights - he would lose all credibility even before being elected, and even after elections, concessions on these fundamental issues would lead to an immediate loss of his authority and legitimacy.
Abu Mazen has stated several times his intentions to stop violence and to put an end to it. He has consistently for the past four years criticized the militarization of the Intifada. He has also stated that negotiations are the best way to reach peace and he called all parties involved to implement the Road Map. He has declared that the main policy directive for his government will be the full implementation of the Road Map. Abu Mazen is supporting the Palestinian peoples’ will for democracy. He wants to rebuild Palestinian institutions and to provide Palestinians with real security. Abu Mazen is the only leader who has called to stop the Qassams, and this call to put an end to the Qassams echoes as a collective call of the Palestinian people. He is the leader that might achieve the Palestinian aspirations. For that we should all give the man a chance.
Abu Mazen is not just running for a position and for having authority. He holds in his hands a new Palestinian National Agenda. He is not running as the successor of late Abu Amar, but as someone who is presenting a new Palestinian national agenda emphasizing the Palestinian aspiration for sovereignty and freedom based on the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and emphasizing the belief that the way to achieve those rights is at the negotiations table. For that too we should give the man a chance.
The United States has to do more than just issue statements and hopes. President George Bush stated "that the United States will revitalize its efforts to broker a two-state settlement”, but it needs to do more than speak the words. The US needs to show itself on the ground, in action. The US Government and the other donors must make the financial resources available so that the reformed Palestinian Authority can demonstrate to the people that peace and stability pays. The evidence must be on the ground. People must have work, investments must come, and freedom of movement must be guaranteed. Abu Mazen and his government will do their part. They will work to ensure an energetic and efficient security organization, but one that is politically respectable as well. The United States must understand that Abu Mazen will not attack Hamas the way that the Americans attacked Sadaam Hussein. Hamas can be accepted as a political movement, but Abu Mazen will not accept Hamas as a militia carrying out its own independent policies. In order for Abu Mazen to even have a chance to work on the ground, the United States must caution Israel that it must release its finger from the triggers. Let Abu Mazen work without having funerals taking place everyday of the victims of Israeli aggression.
Israel has to do more than releasing 159 Palestinians; there are still more than 8000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Moreover the good will gestures should be made towards the newly elected Palestinian president and not just for Egypt and President Mubarak. Abu Mazen needs to be supported this time by positive Israeli steps and not just by empty speeches. Israel can make or break the chances for Abu Mazen’s success. Abu Mazen does not need or want Israeli embraces and nice speeches by the Israeli Foreign Minister or even invitations from the Israeli President. Abu Mazen needs for Israel to pull back its troops. Abu Mazen needs for Israel to allow Palestinians to resume their normal lives – in the words of the Road Map. So Israel should also give the man a fair chance.
Hamas and all other opposition groups and factions claim that they are defending Palestinian rights from Israeli occupation policies, but their acts are causing more damage and suffering and provide Israel with excuses to use massive force against the civilian population. To the Palestinians opposition I say give the man a chance and work together with him. All sides should now work to put an end for the daily suffering of our people.
For all these reasons and for all involved I say, give the man a chance and let’s hope and work together for a better future.
* Khaled Duzdar is the Palestinian Co-Director of IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and information. http://www.ipcri.org