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Future of Palestinians: Abbas at the crossroads

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 Future of Palestinians: Abbas at the crossroads

October 22, 2006

Abbas procrastinates, like a confused old man lost in the swirl of the uptown traffic. The once assertive being is now reduced to a mere cork upon a turbulent sea trapped between the many currents, and while he dithers Palestine slips away unnoticed as each hope is quenched.

 On Tuesday AP reported that two Palestinians had been abducted as collaborators from Khan Yunis by a new organisation "Fursan Alsafa" (Knights of the Storm), claiming affiliation with Fatah.“ There is nothing special about this, and it is highly likely that they will be executed for their “crimes” like others before them. If this does happen and their bodies are found somewhere lying in the dirt, their deaths will not make the headlines anywhere.

 The absence of law and order bodes ill for a future Palestinian state, regardless of the actions of the Sharon government. The inability of Abbas to assert control over the armed factions is indicative of the fundamental ineptitude of the Palestinian administration. Abbas remains their hostage, constantly modifying his actions to ensure that they do not threaten his position. If anything the only significant constraint upon these armed factions is the Sharon government, and his willingness to meet violence with violence.

 However Israel cannot guarantee the future of the Palestinian state, and ultimately if it is to come into being, then the Abbas administration must present the armed factions with the ultimatum, disarm or face destruction. Every nascent state faces this, whether it be England’s King Henry VII facing down the armed barons or Ben-Gurion facing down the Irgun. The nation state cannot tolerate forces within it which can threaten its sovereignty.

 Yet there is no indication that the armed factions are prepared to disarm or be integrated into a single structure under a command subject to the rule of law. They continue to maintain they are above the law or that they are indeed the law, as the "Fursan Alsafa" (Knights of the Storm) do. Nor is there any indication that Abbas will ever be able to impose the will of the Palestinian government.

 For the individual Palestinian the outlook is bleak. They are subject to effectively a number of regimes operating across undefined territories. What may be a minor offence, or no crime at all, can easily become a capital crime within another fiefdom. There is no appellant system that can put right miscarriages of justice.

 Worse still is that without a stable judiciary which conducts itself according to basic international norms investors will shy away from the future Palestine. Consequently new industries will not be able to expand to create employment for the Palestinians. The result will be progressive impoverishment and dependency upon foreign aid. The armed factions will compete with each other to control the distribution of this aid, and through this assert their control of the people.

 Further if the Abbas’ government cannot assert itself over these armed factions, then it cannot claim to be the effective government of Palestine, and can never deliver peace. In this sad conclusion the Sharon government has no business seeking to engage with this empty vessel. The power to deliver peace lies largely in the hands of the Palestinian people, it is they who can command the private armies to disband. If they choose not to do this, they implicitly vote for the conflict that will ensue.

Abbas may stand there patiently waiting for the lights to change so that he can cross the road. But unless he is able to assert his right to cross the road and unless the drivers obey the Highway Code, Abbas will be run over and killed as soon as her steps off the pavement.

Rod Davies

Croydon, UK

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