Will Abbas get, and accept, a two-month settlement freeze?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is backing a 'loyalty oath' to appease Israel's right wing, and there are indications that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be offered a two-month settlement freeze to keep peace talks going.
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"On the diplomatic front, he's proven to the world the problem is not the Palestinians, it's elsewhere. He should continue to rally foreign support while mobilizing grassroots non-violent resistance to the occupation," says Dimitri Diliani, 35, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.Skip to next paragraph
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Abbas backers are placing their hopes on President Obama being more inclined to pressure Israel once the November congressional elections are over, reasoning that then Mr. Obama will need not defer to the pro-Israel lobby. Obama has said Israel should extend the settlement moratorium but thus far has not publicly tried to strongarm Israel on the issue.
Betting on Obama
At Abbas's urging, the Arab League will also be taking up the issue, after a Palestinian leadership grouping headed by Abbas on Saturday decided there will be no talks unless Israel reinstates the freeze.
''Contrary to Arafat who tried diplomacy, violence, activating the Israeli peace camp, and other ways, Abbas has bet all his chips on the Americans and Obama.'' Mr. Avnery says. ''If America will not provide the pressure on Israel, Abbas will fail.... Until now Obama has failed to provide the goods and Abbas's position is frail.''
Abbas was born in Safed in what is now northern Israel in 1935. His family was among the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced to leave at Israel's establishment in 1948.
In exile in Qatar, he joined Yasser Arafat as a founder of Fatah in the late 1950s. He studied law in Egypt before doing a doctorate in Moscow on ''the secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism." In 1980, he was appointed head of the PLO's department for national and international relations and it was in that capacity that he helped guide the secret talks leading to the Oslo agreement to fruition.
Abbas criticized suicide bombings and stressed that the ''militarization'' of the second intifada uprising, which started in 2000, was causing a heavy toll on Palestinians in fatalities and damage. He warned that Hamas's use of rocket attacks against Israel would bring heavy destruction on Gaza, a prophecy that came true nearly two years ago with the Israeli Army's devastating Operation Cast Lead.
Ramhi, the Hamas leader, who was released after three years in Israeli jail several months ago, predicts that Abbas will eventually back down from his refusal to negotiate with Israel while it builds settlements. ''It is a tactic and then they will return," he says. They said they would stop direct negotiations, meaning indirect ones are acceptable."
Ramhi believes Abbas's path will never end occupation.
''Any people who are under occupation have to fight this occupation," says Rahmi. "There is no example in the world of people reaching liberation without sacrifice and resistance. We understand resistance has a big price. But without resistance we can't achieve anything.''