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July 16, 2005

A Political Moment of Truth for Abu Mazen and the Authority

By: Gershon Baskin*

The Palestinian Authority’s policy of acquiescence vis-à-vis Hamas and Jihad has failed. These two militant groups have continued to act independently of the PA and have continually, openly and publicly slapped Abu Mazen and the entire PA in the face. As these groups continue to act unilaterally against the interests of the Palestinian people the entire stability and well being of the Palestinian people are at risk.

President Mahmoud Abass thought that he could embrace and cuddle them.  He thought that he could absorb them into the Authority. He thought that at the same time he is seeking accords with Israel and is working to coordinate with Israel, Hamas and Jihad will idly stay on the sidelines and allow a new political process to advance based on non-violent resistance and diplomatic confrontation. This policy has failed.

It was quite clear that Israel would demonstrate relative restraint in responses to Qassam attacks as long as there were no casulties. It was also clear that once the Qassams and mortars would lead to real casualties the army would respond with its long arm of lethal assassinations.  It should also be clear that Israel cannot exhibit restraint when suicide murderers are once again blowing themselves up inside of Israel.

Abu Mazen has long boasted that his policy of ‘one authority-one gun” would be implemented on his terms. His terms were based on political dialogue with the various rogue and other factions. The political dialogue has failed even within his own Fatah party.  If there will not be one gun, there will not be one authority.  This should be clear to Abu Mazen, to the Palestinian Authority and to the Palestinian people.

The time to make the choice is now. Only decisive and swift action against those who threaten the only real chance of stability and of a political process can prevent the final foudaization of  Palestinian society. If the militants don’t pay the price, the entirety of Palestinian society will pay the price.  Israel’s actions during these days are only the first steps towards total chaos. The internal collapse of any semblance of law and order in Palestine is sure to follow if the Palestinian Authority decides not to govern.

There can be no excuses.  The can be no false hopes. Either the Hamas, the Jihad, al Aqsa brigades and other rogue forces are disarmed or there will be no Palestinian Authority worthy of the name “authority”. Hamas and Jihad and others can continue to play a role in the struggle for freedom and to end the occupation.  They can advance their views and seek political office. They cannot continue to be independent of Palestinian law. 

At this point it is time for the masses to raise their voices. Public opinion polls in Palestine suggest that the masses want a new chance at a political process. The majority of Palestinians don’t wish to return to the past years of intifada. The masses do not want a third intifada. Abu Mazen and the Authority have a mandate from the people. This is a moment of truth for the Palestinian liberation struggle. The fate of the regime of Mahmoud Abbas will be determined by what he does during these days.

* The Israeli Co-Director of IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information – Jerusalem.