The loneliness of Mahmoud Abbas
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Disunity and a lack of political vision continue to plague the Palestinian leadership
If Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was enamoured by the warmth, hospitality, assistance and above all the ceremonial guard of honour in New Delhi, none can fault him. Like most leaders in today's world, he is more popular outside than among his constituents and foreign visits and meetings are often a consolation and useful diversion for otherwise bleak ground realities.
While Abbas cannot be held responsible for much of the problems facing the Palestinians today, he symbolises them. For nearly a century, the Palestinian leadership was anything but united and even Israel could not unite them. What began as a feud between powerful clans slowly transformed into the Palestinian plight becoming a pawn in the inter-Arab clash. Rival leaders began propping various factors within the Palestinian national movement to serve their interests and undermine their rivals. Before long, the Palestinians had more groups and factions serving different rulers and professing differing ideologies. The emergence of Hamas following the 1987 Intifada added a strong ideological resonance to these divisions.
Thus, Tuesday's visit was Abbas's fourth to India since he succeeded Yasser Arafat in January 2005. During the same period, he visited the Gaza Strip in December 2006, his first and last trip as president. Political-ideological differences and security concerns have prevented Abbas from visiting the other part of the Palestinian National Authority that he heads.
While the Israel-imposed siege of the Gaza Strip draws international attention, the internal struggle has rarely been noticed, especially within India. During the past decades, the peace talks in the Middle East took an ominous tone. They did not imply Palestinian deliberations with Israel but internal negotiations for unity. Even powerful countries like Saudi Arabia tried their luck and burnt their reputation. Within weeks after the February 2007 Mecca Accord facilitated by King Abdullah, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and since then there is very little interaction between the two parts of Palestine. The sense of alienation and indifference was total. During Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip in late 2008, where over a thousand Gazans were killed, the West Bank remained indifferent and quiet. Thus, a three-state solution (Israel, and two Palestinian states of West Bank and the Gaza Strip) looks more promising than a two-state solution of Israel and Palestine co-existing side by side.
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