Friday, May 26, 2006

He Is No Arafat

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took a bold step recently. He has given Hamas 10 days to accept a Palestinian state in the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War. If Hamas doesn’t accept those terms, Abbas will put it to a referendum to the Palestinian people, which pollsters think is likely to pass. With this step, Hamas will either have to follow Abbas’ lead, or become irrelevant. It is incredible to finally see a Palestinian leader take Hamas head-on.

Abbas and Hamas have been battling ever since the Hamas victory in the parliamentary elections, and recently the battles have been violent. Although violence is never something we wish for, in this situation I think it is healthy as long as it doesn’t spiral out of control. For too long, Palestinians under Arafat could ignore their differences because average citizens had no control over the direction of their country. Now that they elect their president and parliament, moderates and extremists need to actually confront each other over the direction to take their country. There is the potential for a great deal of change in the Middle East right now, and Palestinians need to realize they have a major stake in the outcome.