Palestine: Abbas Remains President

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has extended until further notice the tenure of President Mahmoud Abbas.  The term of the Legislative Council, which hasn’t met since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, was also extended until elections could be scheduled.  The PLO also refused to resume negotiations with Israel until settlement construction is permanently frozen.

Jonathan Tobin argues that such preconditions for dialogue are a stall tactic employed by the Palestinians to avoid internal conflict, while the world continues to condemn Israeli PM Netanyahu as the roadblock to negotiations.  Evelyn Gordon concurs and believes this tactic has been constantly successful for the PLO.

Ray Hanania recommends two new strategies for the peace process: immediately declare a Palestinian state alongside Israel and establish a “Settler-Refugee Exchange Program” that would return most settlements to Palestine and exchange land for those settlements Israel wishes to keep. In exchange, Palestinians would surrender their Right of Return.  Mustafa Barghouthi also supports definitive action as he calls on the European foreign minister to press Palestinian rights immediately and for non-violent Palestinian movements to receive better support from the West.  He argues that the collapse of a two-state solution will “only lead to a new struggle for equal rights, within one state […] There comes a time when people cannot take injustice any more, and this time has come to Palestine.”

At BitterLemons, Yossi Alpher argues that Abbas should recognize the validity of the settlement freeze to enter immediate peace negotiations and to pressure Netanyahu to make real long-term concessions to the Palestinians.  Ghassan Khatib, however, sees the settlement freeze as a public relations gimmick that offers no real progress and he calls on the international community to pressure Israel for change, both politically and through efforts such as Britain’s attempt to label products from settler communities.

Aluf Benn writes in an op-ed that President Obama has adopted a “realist manifesto” that informs his belief in a gradual peace process, will push him to go beyond his insistence on a settlement freeze, and will eventually lead him to support direct dialogue with Hamas.