Mahmoud Abbas has to stay home. As things stand right now, he must not go to Washington. Even his meetings with Ehud Olmert are gradually turning into a disgrace and have become a humiliation for his people. Nothing good will come of them. It has become impossible to bear the spectacle of the Palestinian leader’s jolly visits in Jerusalem, bussing the cheek of the wife of the very prime minister who is meanwhile threatening to blockade a million and a half of his people, condemning them to darkness and hunger.
If Abu Mazen were a genuine national leader instead of a petty retailer, he would refuse to participate in the summit and any other meetings until the blockade of Gaza is lifted. If he were a man of truly historic stature he would add that no conference can be held without Ismail Haniyeh, another crucial Palestinian representative. And if Israel really wanted peace, not only an “agreement of principles” with a puppet-leader that will lead nowhere, it should respect Abbas’ demand. Israel should aspire for Abu Mazen to be considered a leader in the eyes of his people, not only a marionette whose strings are pulled by Israel and the United States, or affected by other short-term power plays.
Right now power rests with the powerless Abu Mazen. Since Washington – and perhaps Jerusalem as well – badly want the photo-op otherwise known as a “peace summit” to show off an “achievement,” Abu Mazen could and should threaten to boycott the meeting to try and force some achievement on behalf of his people. Palestinians live in Gaza, too – an area controlled by Hamas, which Abu Mazen so loathes: He cannot continue to ignore the inhumane conditions in which Gazans live, caged in by Israel.