By Michael Widlanski
2nd part of 2
With Putin, both the Russians and Abbas have a number of shared areas of interest. Putin and the Russian leadership are eager to regain political and economic influence in the Middle East region that is in
The chosen instrument that both
Putin and the Palestinian leadership are both suffering from serious domestic problems and disappointments, according to public opinion polls. Russia is suffering a huge public health crisis that includes spiraling AIDS deaths and infant mortality.11 The average young Russian male is nearly ten times likelier to die a violent death than the average Israeli.12 High-powered summitry is especially attractive to Putin because it meets the Russian populist desire to reassert Great Power status. For Abbas, it distracts from his relative inability to improve the Palestinian quality of life or to make any major inroads in reducing corruption or internal Palestinian violence. Abbas can also present an advantage over Hamas to the Palestinian public, showing that he is capable of mobilizing international support on behalf of the Palestinian cause.
Both Putin and Abbas, each of whom were trained and/or employed by the Soviet KGB for significant periods in their lives, are both past masters at the KGB tactics of disinformation and "peace offensives." During the 1980s and early 1990s, after his return from doctoral studies in
While both Abbas and Putin have talked about peace and democracy, their records are somewhat more modest. Putin has used the Russian legal system to rein in press critics, while Abbas's election victory in January was attained during a two-week election campaign in which none of the other candidates were interviewed or covered significantly in the Palestinian broadcast media, and when gunmen from Abbas's Fatah faction intimidated election officials into opening polls so that Abbas backers could "vote" repeatedly.13
Both men have promised to curb incitement against
Both men have also had difficulty in curbing domestic terrorism and internal violence. In theory, Putin should have serious reservations about Abbas's willingness to embrace Hamas and Islamic Jihad, since
Is there an alternative course for Russian diplomacy? The post-9/11 world, in fact, has created new joint Russian interests with the West.
Putin and Abbas seem to share an ambivalence about confronting terrorism, except if it is directed at them. For his part, Abbas has promised Israel and the United States to curb Palestinian terrorists, but he has not arrested any gunmen, preferring to spend his first 100 days in office demanding increased American and Israeli financial support as well as Israel's release of all convicted Palestinian terrorists and arms merchants.14 It is ironic that Putin can embrace Abbas, who is a self-declared ally of the Chechen mujahidin, while Abbas has chosen a path of legitimizing an armed Hamas and making it a part of the Palestinian political system.15
Abbas has also talked to his own people about ending "the militarization of the intifada" and the "anarchy of weapons." In real terms, this means putting an end to internal Palestinian violence which has increased along with Palestinian-Israeli violence. "People are being killed every day in the street," observed Bassem Eid, director of the Palestinian Human Rights Group. "Mostly it's not collaborators [people accused of cooperating with
The renewed Russian drive for influence in the
Dr. Michael Widlanski teaches political communication and comparative politics at the Rothberg School of Hebrew University.
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1. Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the missiles were only defensive, that they would be used to "guard Syrian President Assad's palace," according to several Israeli press reports. However, some Western analysts suspect that Putin has basically agreed to sell
3. Voice of
5. Al-Ahram, April 28-May 4, 2005.
6. J.C. Hurewitz,
7. See Alex Nicholson, "
9. This was a reference to the "Quartet" or the informal American-Russian-European-UN oversight of the Arab-Israeli peace process.
10. Yediot Ahronot, April 29, 2005.
11. Cesar Chelala, "
12. David Brooks, "Mourning Mother Russia,"
13. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who served as an international observer, and the PA's own election commission made these charges.
14. Abbas promised to release Fouad Shoubaki from British custody in
15. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror and David Keyes, "Will a
16. Interviews by Michael Widlanski with Bassem Eid, April 2005.