Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reverted to an old political trick by saying he will resign and not run for re-election when the next presidential elections are held in early 2010 – and then immediately arranging a series of staged “rallies” in which ordinary people appear to cheer him and demand that he remain in office. The spectacle is as disheartening as it is old and empty, and it is an insult to the dignity and needs of the Palestinian people.
Three separate issues converge here: the person of Abbas and his own achievements, the nature and quality of Palestinian leadership, and the current priorities of the Palestinian people. On all three counts, Abbas should cut short his silly little melodrama, resign as he said he would, and pave the way for a needed revival of effective Palestinian national leadership.
At the personal level, Abbas is widely respected as a sincere man who has devoted his entire life to the Palestinian cause. But this is not a popularity contest, a character test, or one man’s emotional counseling session; this is about the fate of an entire people whose lives are in distress. Abbas worked closely with Yasser Arafat for four decades and has little to show for it. The most useful thing he could do now is to take advantage of his many years of experience by withdrawing from politics as planned, retreating to a quiet university in Palestine, and painstakingly writing down and analyzing every single major episode in which the Palestinians attempted to negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel, but always failed.