by Khaled Abu Toameh
But the question that needs to be asked these days is: Is there really a strong, credible and reliable partner on the Palestinian side for any deal? Or, in simple terms, can Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian deliver?
The answer obviously is no.
Even if Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas were to sign a peace agreement tomorrow morning, it is highly unlikely that the Palestinian president would be able to sell it to his people.
Abbas's credibility has been severely damaged as a result of the manner in which he handled a resolution that was supposed to be brought before the UN Human Rights Council regarding the findings of the Richard Goldstone report into Operation Cast Lead.
Palestinians were hoping that the resolution, which accuses both
Abbas, however, shocked many Palestinians by ordering his representative at the UN, Ibrahim Khraishi, to set aside the resolution.
Abbas has since been facing an unprecedented wave of denunciations and allegations of high treason from many Palestinians and Arabs. Even some of his loyalists are now calling for his resignation on the pretext that he cannot be trusted to negotiate peace with
The street protests that erupted in the Palestinian territories and Arab capitals following Abbas's controversial decision serve as a reminder of the wide gap that has always existed between Arab dictators and their constituents.
The protests also serve as a reminder that the Arab masses are more interested in punishing
Abbas is under attack because, in the eyes of many Palestinians and Arabs, he "helped
Abbas has offered a number of explanations for his decision to set aside the Goldstone report - explanations which have only caused further damage to his credibility.
First his aides and he claimed that the decision was taken under US pressure and threats. Then they argued that the decision was taken at the request of a number of Arab and Islamic countries. When these two explanations did not calm the Palestinian and Arab streets, Abbas ordered the establishment of a three-man commission of inquiry to look into the circumstances that prompted him to set aside the resolution.
This last move - the formation of a commission of inquiry - has been received with laughter by Abbas's critics. As a Palestinian minister put it, "In the beginning I thought it was a joke when I heard that the president had established a commission of inquiry to investigate himself. How can anyone take him seriously from now on?"
Well, it seems that there are still many who do take Abbas seriously, especially in
Abbas cannot be a partner to any deal: his image and credibility have been severely tarnished. Any agreement he reaches with
Hamas, on the other hand, is not a partner because the movement is not going to change its radical ideology, at least not in the foreseeable future.
All that one can do now is to wait until a new, third-way party emerges in the Palestinian territories. Sadly, that option also does not seem to be realistic at this stage -- especially not when both Abbas and Hamas have a common interest in suppressing the emergence of new leaders.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades. He studied at
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