Abbas’ ‘nuclear option’

Abbas threatens to use his ‘nuclear option’:

Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas is reported to have threatened to resign if the upcoming peace conference in Annapolis fails, paving the way for another round of violence and for the emergence of al-Qaida in the Palestinian territories…

“It was a very tough meeting,” the [unnamed PA] official said. “President Abbas threatened to resign and to deliver a public speech that would cause the US political difficulties and earthquakes not only in the Palestinian territories, but among US allies throughout the world as well.”

The PA official also quoted Abbas as telling Rice that the absence of his “moderate” policies would force Washington to deal with a “third intifada”…

The official added that Abbas made it clear during the meeting that had it not been for his Fatah security forces in the West Bank, Iranian, Hizbullah and al-Qaida operatives would have infiltrated Israeli cities.

“You would have heard about hundreds of civilians killed every day in Israel had it not been for our efforts,” Abbas was quoted as saying. — Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post

Failure, for Abbas, means failure to come up with an agreement on ‘core issues’: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, etc.

There are two big problems that prevent such an agreement: first, Abbas has so far demanded much more than Israel can give. And second, even if agreement is reached, Israel does not believe that Abbas can deliver the necessary commitments on the Palestinian side, which would have to include an end to terrorism and a compromise on the refugee issue.

Israel wanted the conference to limit itself to a declaration of principles which would form the basis of an agreement, not the agreement itself.

Possibly Abbas thinks that with anything less than a big victory (e.g., an Israeli agreement to leave the territories, including East Jerusalem, and to at least take responsibility for the refugees), he will not be able to maintain even the little bit of support he has. So he might as well quit if he doesn’t get it.

He also is very aware that he is the only game in town for the US and Israel. What would happen if he walked away? He is at pains to detail this, especially for the Americans whom he feels can squeeze anything out of Israel (that’s why he repeatedly mentioned our bête noir, al-Quaida).

So it looks like either he will get what he wants, in which case Israel will be in a far weaker position when he is replaced by Hamas, or he will not get what he wants, in which case he will quit and be replaced by Hamas.

If these are the alternatives, it’s better to call his bluff.

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