How To Counter Your Own Argument

Khouri: Abbas should stay because he is a weak leader and Palestine needs strong onesRami Khouri, an editor for Lebanon’s The Daily Star, is a smart guy who more often than not writes smart articles.  Yet his last one is simply confusing.  In an effort to convince his readers that dissolving the PA is not a good idea, Khouri uses a good analysis of the political views of the Palestinian people (Abbas has lost their support) to support his argument that Abbas should keep the PA alive.

First of all, it is not his decision whether the PA should be dissolved or not. It is a decision that the Palestinian people should have an opportunity to decide on. One of the reasons Abbas and his colleagues have made no progress in their diplomatic engagement with the Israelis and the Americans is that Abbas and colleagues are waging battle on their own – ageing generals without an army. They are woefully detached from their natural support base among Palestinians in the occupied territories, in Israel, in the Arab world, and around the globe…If the PA is to be dissolved, the decision would have to come from a more representative Palestinian decision-making body than the current PA executive leadership.

Correct.  Abbas has completely lost touch with the Palestinian people and has completely dismantled any resemblance of a democracy in Palestine.  The PA should be replaced with a more representative government, but unfortunately for Abbas, it would exclude the current president.  Good work here Khouri.  Next paragraph:

Second of all, logistically dissolution would be a bad move, because it would leave Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and would create a vacuum in which Palestinians would find themselves inordinately led by Hamas – which does not represent a majority or even a plurality of Palestinians. Hamas is appreciated or feared by various parts of the Palestinian population, but it clearly does not represent the natural Palestinian national leadership. Dissolving the PA would throw the mantle of Palestinian national leadership to Hamas by default, which is not necessarily a good idea in procedural or political terms.

So the PA should not be dissolved because it would leave control to a group that is not representative of the Palestinian people.  A good argument out of context, but didn’t Khouri just write that Abbas is not representative of the Palestinian people?  So the PA – which does not represent the will of the Palestinian people – should not be dismantled because it would give power to a group that does not represent the Palestinian people.  Interesting.  Moving on:

Third of all, the politics and psychology of dissolving the PA represent the equivalent of taking your ball and going home if you don’t like how the game is progressing. It shows the weaknesses of a failed leadership, and would be a sorry substitute for the really decisive leadership that Mahmoud Abbas and colleagues have been unable to provide their people. It is not a particularly impressive move, either, and will only generate a combination of scorn and ridicule. Abbas would be seen not only as a failure as president, but as a quitter, too.

[tweetmeme] So Abbas is incapable of decisive leadership and has failed to deliver anything to the Palestinian people.  I’m with you there, but the solution is to continue to provide failed leadership?  To make a (very decisive) move like dismantling the PA – which would force some sort of change – is foolish because it shows that Abbas cannot give decisive leadership.  So he should continue to be indecisive.  One thing Khouri nailed here is that Abbas will be seen as a failed president and a quitter – which is exactly why he won’t step down.

Fourth of all, knowing the Israelis, Abbas’ threatened move to dissolve the PA would not necessarily achieve the aims he has in mind. Dissolution may fail to force the Israelis to come back and govern the West Bank and provide the services the Palestinians living under occupation are entitled to from an occupying authority. The Israelis would simply unilaterally declare that they have withdrawn from the main cities and towns of the West Bank – as they did from Gaza a few years ago – and they would demand that the United Nations, the Arab League, Jordan, or a combination of organizations and countries take charge of providing order and basic services.

Certainly Israel would be loathe to return to Nablus and Ramallah, but so would the Jordanians and the Arab League.  The UN could come in, but that would not be sufficient for Israel (see South Lebanon).  And this comes right after Khouri argues that Hamas would take over – which it would, unofficially if the UN came.  The only reason Hamas is not more active in the West Bank is that the PA is acting as Israel’s military.  So Israel would be faced with a choice of tearing up the useless Oslo Accords and completely reoccupying the West Bank or allowing Hamas to take control.

Finally Khouri adds:

Abbas is neither of those things [a fool or a dreamer], but is simply a typical Arab political leader who has lost the capacity to govern with skill, equity and efficiency. This is the case mainly because he decided long ago to make decisions without consulting his people – and to anchor his incumbency not in the principle of the consent of the governed, but rather in the demonstrably hollow endorsements he gets from Americans and Israelis [correct]…  Abbas and the Palestinian leaders have many options available to them that are more sensible and effective than dissolving the PA, starting with forging a renewed Palestinian national consensus on a single political strategy, which can be done through the existing but dormant institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization. If Abbas wants to generate drama, he should drop the childish idea of dissolving the PA and instead do something both dramatic and purposeful: travel to Gaza, agree with Hamas on renewed national elections for the Palestine National Council (the Palestinian Parliament, representing Palestinians throughout the world), and announce that he will turn over the reins of power to a new executive authority whose powers and policies would reflect the expressed will of a majority of Palestinians.

Abbas cannot dissolve the PA because of the threat that Hamas might take control, fine.  But with any reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas – followed by new elections – there is a very real and very probable outcome:  Hamas wins the elections.  Sure the government might not be completely Hamas and would represent the people more, but the result would be (nearly) the same if the PA went the way of the dodo.  I have long said that reconciliation is important for any peace deal, but Khouri has tied himself in knots here.  It is exactly the threat of Hamas leadership that Israel wants to avoid and elections of dissolution of the PA would most likely result in such an outcome.

Of course, dissolving the PA would be a logistical nightmare that would inevitably result in the complete Israeli occupation becoming official.  But it would force Israel to switch from creeping colonization under complete control of the PA mercenaries to a more overt and internationally repugnant open colonization and occupation effort.  The two state solution died long before Obama gave up on settlements.  The PA, like Khouri says, is unable to govern effectively; not because Abbas is a weak leader (he is), but because most Palestinians see that the PA is simply reinforcing the occupation.  There are many reasons not to dissolve the PA, but Khouri comments on none here.  Moreover, he uses the reasons why the PA should be dissolved to back his claims.  Come on Rami Khouri.  We expect more.

Photo from Enjoy France

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