Why Israeli raid on Freedom Flotilla makes Abbas's job harder
International pressure in the wake of the Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has boosted sympathy for Hamas, the chief rival of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's party and a longtime opponent of peace talks.
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But not because Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is pulling out. Rather, the flotilla incident has boosted international sympathy for Hamas, the chief rival of Mr. Abbas's Fatah party and a long-time critic of peace negotiations with Israel.
"It will be difficult for [Abbas] to proceed in any direct negotiation. Hamas is gaining more ground from this operation,'' says Nashat Aqtash, a communications professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank. "When Hamas wins, that means that Mahmoud Abbas has less opportunity. This is a new obstacle to negotiations.''
In addition, says Alon Liel, a former Israeli diplomat who supports Israeli peace talks with Syria, it will be difficult for Abbas to resume peace talks during a period when funerals are being held for pro-Palestinian activists, stirring anger at Israel across the region.
"I don't know if in this atmosphere that the proximity talks can go forward in the next few weeks,'' he says.
Netanyahu cancels White House visit
The US and Israel have been pushing to transition from indirect "proximity'' talks, begun in May after more than a year of pressure from the Obama administration, to the face-to-face negotiations they say are necessary for a deal.
Both Mr. Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were scheduled to visit the White House this week for a new round of negotiations, but the Israeli leader decided to forgo his US trip after the flotilla raid. Abbas has not canceled his trip.
Despite the Israeli killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists, negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Monday that the Palestinians would not abandon the negotiations, emphasizing that they are speaking with the US only.