I’d never figured Mahmoud Abbas for Rupert Pupkin, but you’ve got to admire the guy’s material — and his exquisite comic timing. Latest example: The punchline he offered after Hamas presented him with its cabinet: “Yes, but Hamas has failed to acknowledge the primacy of the PLO, which is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
If Pupkin was the King of Comedy, Abbas is its eternal prime minister.
Having failed dismally to persuade the Palestinian people to vote for his corrupt and decrepit party — and knowing that if he provoked a constitutional crisis by rejecting Hamas’s right to govern, he’d simply get himself unelected by the same voters — Abu Mazen has avoided taking on the challenge of rebuilding his party’s credibilty in the eyes of those is claims to represent; instead, he has turned to a bureaucratic shortcut worthy of any former Soviet satellite regime, by claiming that the democratically elected Palestinian government owes its legitimacy only to the fact that the unelected Palestine Liberation Organization negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel, and that it is therefore obliged to recognize the PLO, as the UN did in 1974, as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Cute, Mahmoud. Cute. The fact is that the UN recognized the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the PLO” in 1974, in order to protect the principle of Palestinian independence and sovereignty from two threats: The Israelis copying their South African allies and standing up their own stooges as “representative” of the Palestinians with whom they would then “negotiate”; and the Arab regimes of Jordan, Egypt or Syria negotiating the fate of the Palestinians as part of their own power-compacts with Israel. In 1974, there was no possibility of Palestinian sovereignty being expressed through democratic institutions. Today, the fact that the majority of Palestinian voters has chosen as their representatives an organization outside of the PLO makes nonsense of its claim to being the “sole legitimate representative”. And the warning by the PLO Executive Committee that Hamas will be diplomatically isolated if it fails to accept the primacy of the PLO will be greeted with raucous laughter among the Hamas leadership, which has been traveling the Middle East collecting pledges of support.
Indeed, as prime minister designate, Hamas’s Ismail Haniya had an equally cute response: “Hamas sees the PLO’s activity as an achievement, and has for many years attempted to gain entry to the organization and rebuild it in accordance with democratic foundations, but these attempts failed.” Indeed, Hamas sought to join the PLO a few years ago, but Yasser Arafat balked at their demand for 30 percent of the seats in its leadership structures. By current indicators, I’d say that seemed rather reasonable. Of course the PLO has traditionally represented the interests of not only West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, but also those of the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Then again, I don’t doubt that if you took a poll or conducted an election in the Palestinian diaspora, the results would not be very different from those recorded in January’s Palestinian Authority election.
Choice quote from Abbas’s supporting cast: Former Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who said “We cannot have a government that does not recognize the P.L.O.” Right. Perhaps the PLO will have to use all of its diplomatic clout to persuade the U.S., the EU and the Arab League to withhold funding to the Palestinian Authority until its government recognizes the authority of the PLO.