In the spring of 2003, the international press corps fell in love with the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Abbas was the alternative to Arafat the US has been seeking, a cultured nogotiator, and a temperate civil servant. His ascension would allow the US to "re—engage in the "peace process" without having to negotiate with Arafat and his noxious half century history of terrorist murders, deceit and destruction of prior peace efforts.
Abbas, whatever his attributes, did not last very long. He resigned, expressing frustration with his inability to deal with the Israelis or the Americans without Arafat's interference. But the international press reported a different story. Abbas failed, it was argued, because Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had failed to come up with the necessary concessions and gestures that would have legitimized Abbas in the eyes of his people. Only by Israeli upfront concessions would he be enabled to negotiate the "roadmap for peace" and deal with the terrorist groups in the territories.
Anyone with even a basic knowledge of this conflict, should have been aware that after 50 years as the head of the Palestainian resistance movement, Arafat certainly had no interest in creating an alternative to his authority and rule, nor would he give any subordinate the ability to act independently.
This of course did not stop New York Times columnist Tom Friedman from blaming Ariel Sharon for Abbas' failure, charging that Sharon did not release enough political prisoners. The "roadmap" never mentioned releasing political prisoners at all, so any prisoner release by Sharon would have been a positive gesture. Despite Friedman's entreaties, Sharon was not going to release prisoners with Israeli blood on their hands, while Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa were still armed, operating freely, and committing terrorist atrocities.
Now many months after his departure, Abbas is back, blaming Arafat and the Palestinian Authority for undermining him. The Jerusalem Post covered the story , but this will not get much coverage elsewhere. It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that Ariel Sharon is the obstacle to peace, that Israel is an outlaw state, carrying out assassinations of handicapped religious leaders, and building an apartheid wall.
When the Palestinians want peace, and are willing to share the land, they will have peace and a state. But not before. For now, as in all their past, their leadership and society are committed more to Israel's destruction than to the well—being, or freedom of their own people. So their tragedy plays on.