Guarantees for Abu Mazen

Editorial

Haaretz

Iyar 15, 5765

One cannot help but wonder about the paradox involved in the visit to Washington of the Palestinian Authority chairman due to start Thursday: Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) will succeed in meeting with the president of the United States but not with the prime minister of Israel. This is evidence, first and foremost, of the lack of normalization in ties between the government of Israel and the PA, particularly at a time when there is a window of opportunity for cooperation, based on a common interest - to strengthen Abu Mazen in anticipation of the election of the Palestinian parliament due to take place in a month and half. But this is merely the "minor" paradox. The more major paradox is the report that the U.S. is considering whether to grant political guarantees to Abu Mazen, and what kind of guarantees, if any.

Washington, which created the road map, is rightly demanding of the Palestinian Authority to fight the terror infrastructure and to disarm the breakaway organizations. This demand, however, albeit worthy and important in itself, cannot be detached from the rest of the road map. That document demands that Israel refrain from construction work in the settlements and promote the building of an independent Palestinian state. Israel accepted the road map, and from time to time is reminded of the necessity to implement it, but not much more than that. President Bush has even adopted a new policy according to which it is no longer possible to ignore the developments in the territories - that is, the massive construction of the settlements - when the sides come to hold negotiations on a permanent solution.

Abu Mazen is currently asking Washington for a road map to the road map: guarantees that the stages and processes that the sides agreed on both in the road map and at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit will not merely be adhered to as a gesture of good will but will become mandatory policy in which the U.S. plays the chief role. Abu Mazen has the feeling that Washington is dragging its feet with regard to everything that has to do with giving backing to the Palestinian side.

This feeling grows stronger in the face of the achievements that Abu Mazen can already present them with, the most important being the cease-fire between the armed factions and Israel and the chance of turning Hamas into part of the political fabric of the PA. These are still fragile achievements, and the recurrent attacks on Israeli communities bear witness to this. But Israel, which itself was not able to prevent the attacks on the villages in the Negev and the Gaza Strip and therefore decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, is quick to see in this unrest a sign that Abu Mazen has failed miserably. This is the reason for the conclusion by some of Israel's policy-makers that Abu Mazen is not a worthy partner and that therefore there is no point in trying to coordinate the pullout from Gaza with him, and that the PA is not worthy of receiving political guarantees from the U.S.

This conclusion is both hasty and unmerited. Israel has an interest in coordinating the withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority as well as in seeing Abu Mazen leading the diplomatic process even in the political pressure cooker in which he finds himself. Therefore Israel should be interested in Abu Mazen receiving political guarantees from Washington, which he can then present as part of his election campaign to the Palestinian parliament.