Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Mahmoud Abbas's "Mandate": 28%

Peter Lagerquist reports that only 28% of eligible Palestinian voters voted for Mahmoud Abbas:
According to data from the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, 775,146 ballots were cast on January 9, meaning that the real proportion of eligible voters who voted was 46 percent.

That lower turnout figure means that Mahmoud Abbas -- with 62 percent of the votes actually cast -- won over about 28 percent of eligible Palestinian voters. (emphasis added, "A Very Slippery 'Landslide' for Mahmoud Abbas," Middle East Report Online, January 20, 2005)
In other words, Abbas's "mandate" is in the same league as that of George W. Bush, who just began "his second term with the lowest approval rating of any returning president except Richard Nixon" (Steve Holland/Reuters, "Bush Sworn In for New Term," January 20, 2005 ).

Abbas does enjoy the unanimous support of the power elites of the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and the United States, who all have much to gain from "endless negotiations":
If for PA leaders a bad agreement is hazardous because it exposes them to charges of selling out, so is stagnation, which would indicate inaction and failure. Therefore the ideal situation is a "peace process" which is all process and no peace, all promise but no fulfillment, fueled by aid money from the European Union and the United States. This allows the leaders to buy time and exercise the luxury of authority without any specific responsibility.

For this reason, the PA and the Fatah movement that dominates it rallied around Abbas, ganged up to discourage and intimidate any competition, and mobilized all their forces to protect their monopoly. With great political skill they succeeded in winning broad international support for their candidate by demonstrating their preparedness to end the Intifada and rid Israel of its most serious problem: Palestinian resistance to its ongoing aggression and occupation. These leaders seem prepared now, as they were at Oslo in 1993, to say and do whatever it takes to secure their position at the top.

Hence the Intifada is a problem not only for Israel but also for the PA. If the ideal situation for the PA is an open-ended peace process, it also needs to be one conducted without the bothersome fact of Palestinian resistance throwing it "off track."

What the Israelis and the PA have in common is that they see no urgency for a final settlement. The Israelis want time to complete the colonization of the West Bank, especially the huge tracts recently grabbed through construction of the apartheid wall. Israel wants no discussion of such final status issues as Jerusalem or refugees as long as there exists any slight chance that such issues might not be settled their way.

So the convenient alternative for both parties is the status quo accompanied by endless negotiations. The big difference of course is that while Israel is deferring to consolidate its gains, the PA is deferring to satisfy its desire for power. The people are left to fend for themselves. (Hasan Abu Nimah & Ali Abunimah, "Mass Hypnosis in the Middle East," The Electronic Intifada, January 19, 2005)
Given the low level of mass support for him, I don't know if Abbas can really end the Intifada, but if he does, the Palestinian people may not be able to survive another round of land grab perpetrated through "a 'peace process' which is all process and no peace" (January 19, 2005).

How much land was taken away from Palestinians during the last "peace process"?
The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians did not lead to the dismantling of even one settlement. . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Overall, contrary to the expectations raised by the Oslo Process, the Israeli governments have implemented a policy leading to the dramatic growth of the settlements. Between September 1993, on the signing of the Declaration of Principles, and September 2001 (the time of the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada), the number of housing units in the settlements in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip rose from 20,400 to 31,400 -- an increase of approximately fifty-four percent in just seven years. The sharpest increase during this period was recorded in 2000, under the government headed by Ehud Barak, when the construction of almost 4,800 new housing units was commenced. At the end of 1993, the population of the West Bank settlements (excluding East Jerusalem) totaled 100,500. By the end of 2000, this figure increased to 191,600, representing a growth rate of some ninety percent. (B'Tselem, "Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank," May 2002, pp. 8, 16-17)
The total area under the control of the settlements eventually came to 41.9% of the West Bank ("Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank," May 2002, p. 116, Table 9). Therefore, it won't be surprising if Palestinians will have lost almost all of the West Bank by the end of the next "peace process."

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