While the United States pursues Palestinian Authority-Israeli talks, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas sticks with his strategy of touring the world to whip up opposition to a Jewish presence in the Old City or anywhere else in Judea and Samaria. His visits also have brought more pledges of billions of dollars in aid.
Since the day after he took over for Yasser Arafat five years ago, the PA chairman has embarked on a strategy to fashion a new image of a respectable state-in-the-making, with the Western-style suit and tie replacing Arafat’s stubbly beard, checkered keffiyeh and pistol on the hip.
Abbas took off the cloak during a visit to Washington several months ago, when he said he can do without negotiations with Israel because “time is on our side” for establishing a new Arab state on his terms. Israeli government leaders recently have stated forthrightly that Abbas is not interested in resuming talks with Israel, and is more interested in the “peace process” than in a negotiated agreement.
(Photo: Abbas meets Assad in Syria)
His latest jaunt finds him in Japan, where he laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in memory of the atomic bomb explosion that brought about the end of World War II. Japan has given the PA more than one billion dollars in aid since 1993. Abbas also is to visit South Korea, saying that his tour will help “provide an opportunity for South Korea to contribute to peace in the Middle East."
Abbas’ proposed peace plan with Israel is the acceptance of the Saudi Arabia 2002 Initiative that calls for the Jewish State to surrender all of the land, including the Golan Heights and the Old City of Jerusalem, that was restored to the country in the Six Day War in 1967.
Abbas has flown to South America, Europe and Asia after beginning his long-term strategy in 2006 with tepid steps to neighboring Arab countries. They were initially skeptical and suspicious of the successor to Arafat, who never was fully accepted or even trusted by the Arab League.
He has succeeded in confounding American initiatives, luring President Obama to call for an Israeli freeze on all building for Jews in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and then criticizing the United States for not living up to its policy.
In an interview with a British newspaper two weeks ago, Abbas ostensibly offered a compromise in which he would return to talks with Israel if all building were to be stopped for three months and if Israel were to recognize the 1949-1967 borders as the boundaries for a new PA state. The offer in effect was similar to other statements that demanded a pre-agreement on the results of negotiations.
The waiting-game strategy has enabled him to bring on board far-flung countries. In November, Venezuela, which has become closely allied with Iran, pledged its support for establishing the PA as an independent country. The country’s National Assembly said that “the two Intifadas have become the symbol of dignity and heroism for the whole world.”
(Photo: Libya's Kaddaffi and Abbas)
Abbas also met with the presidents of Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, all of which expressed support for the PA.
His visit to Sudan last August was the first time he arrived in the country, which is a known incubator for terrorism and has one of the worst human rights records in the world. His Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir told Abbas that Sudan and the PA "are bound by historical and close ties,"
Despite his globetrotting successes, local Arabs in Judea and Samaria have often have been critical of his absence. He has never appeared in Hevron since taking office. Local Fatah leaders have noted he rarely if ever visits other major cities, such as Jenin, Kalkilya and Tulkarm, although American and European officials have been there.
However, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has covered the domestic front for Abbas by using his American education in economics to encourage foreign investment in the PA economy and build the infrastucture for a de facto state, which he recently said will be in place within two years.