Reading Charles Krauthammer’s column this morning I was struck by the extraordinary difference between the Iraqi and Palestinian elections. The Iraqis seem to be having a real one, albeit under fire. (Does anyone know who will win? I don’t have a clue.) The Palestinians are having an anointing not dissimilar to Soviet elections of old with Mahmoud Abbas doing everything but grow a beard to inherit the mantle of Caudillo Arafat.
Krauthammer recites the litany of Abbas’ pro-extremist behaviors from being hoisted on the shoulders of Al Aqsa terrorists to calling Israel the “Zionist entity,” rhetoric the Caudillo himself had abjured of late, at least in public. Is this merely for the sake of a “campaign”? I wish I weren’t, but I’m becoming as skeptical as Krauthammer. He writes:
During the decade of Oslo, Arafat’s every statement of hatred, incitement and glorification of violence was similarly waved away. Then bombs began going off in cafes and buses, and the Middle East wise men realized he meant it all along. Now once again they are telling us to ignore the words. Abbas does not really mean it, they assure us. This is just electioneering. We know his true moderate heart. Believe us.
Why? On the basis of their track record? And even more important, you do not conduct foreign policy as a branch of psychiatry. Does Abbas mean the things he says about Israel now? I do not know, and no matter what you hear from the experts — the same people who assured you that Arafat wanted peace — neither do they.
But we do know this: In Abbas’s first moment of real leadership, his long-anticipated emergence from the shadow of Arafat, he chooses to literally hoist the flag of the terrorist al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Can Abbas turn into a Sadat, who also emerged from the shadow of a charismatic leader, reversed policy and made peace with Israel? I’ll believe it when I see it. And hear it.