The indirect message of Mahmoud Abbas
Through his recent steps, Mahmoud Abbas basically, if indirectly, sent an important message - Yasser Arafat did not want to do so because he had an interest in continuing the violent conflict. He did not give the order to prevent the shooting and when someone else, such as Mohammed Dahlan, wanted to do so, Arafat stopped him.
In many respects it was surprising to see the hundreds of Palestinian policemen, armed and uniformed, some in red berets as if they were IDF Paratroopers, deployed throughout the northern Gaza Strip with the aim of preventing the launch of Qassam rockets at Israel.
All of the compliments were directed at Mahmoud Abbas, who has always been described by the Palestinians as a weak individual. It had only been a few days since his visit to the Gaza Strip, and he informed Hamas that he had decided to deploy the Palestinian Authority's policemen in order to prevent violent actions against Israel.
At the same time, he took another important step, when he instructed the Palestinian police to demolish unlawful buildings constructed on the Gaza coast. The assumption of control by bullies with sharp elbows was a part of the undermining of law and order in Palestinian society, and served as a model for many others. Some of these intimidators were affiliated with ranking members of the Palestinian defense establishment, who grabbed land that did not belong to them and whom no one dared to oppose.
Through these steps, Mahmoud Abbas basically, if indirectly, sent another important message. The speed and the way in which the deployment of the large force was executed indicated that the force had always been ready, but that someone had prevented its deployment and involvement. In other words, Yasser Arafat did not want to do so because he had an interest in continuing the violent conflict. He did not give the order to prevent the shooting and when someone else, such as Mohammed Dahlan, wanted to do so, Arafat stopped him. When Dahlan showed steadfastness, Arafat dispatched his relative, Musa Arafat, to take action against him.
The intensive operations mounted by the IDF, which caused many hundreds of casualties including the deaths of many civilians among the Palestinians, as well as great damage, did not budge Arafat from his stand. Abu Mazen's additional message is, then, that one man prevented the deployment of these forces because he did not want to end the military dispute. One man did not consider the heavy losses incurred by his people. There is no other way to read the situation. And this also explains why Arafat so stridently refused the call by the United States and its road map partners for the initiation of a simple reform of the Palestinian security organizations.
Only in 2004, at the end of his life, did Arafat make an attempt at covert negotiations on this matter. His emissaries said he would prove that it was possible to stop the shooting and even the arms smuggling through the Philadelphi tunnels along the Egyptian border. A Palestinian security plan was sent to Ariel Sharon via Arafat's envoys. He had only one condition: The program would be implemented only so long as dialogue with him proceeded. It was simultaneously sent to the British, who made certain amendments to it.
The Americans - i.e., the CIA - and Israel refused to be involved. They no longer had any confidence in Arafat. He did not bring Mahmoud Abbas into the picture, and the prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, received only a belated report of the move.
As for the British, they did take one step when they built two security headquarters, one in the Gaza Strip, another in the West Bank, in order to help the Palestinians set up a policing force. The initiative made little impression on Arafat, the shooting continued and hundreds more people were killed. It should be hoped that a program with good operational elements will now be brought to the attention of Mahmoud Abbas.
In the steps he has recently taken, Mahmoud Abbas has revealed another aspect of Arafat's character. Although he is considered, justifiably, the father of the Palestinian revolution, he was a violent man who used rhetoric and crude lies when he said he was interested in ending the violence.
Israel was not the only place he acted this way. He also caused the deaths of thousands of Arabs in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. This is part of the heritage he left behind him. It is a shame that he also deceived so many Israelis almost to his dying day.
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