For now, the Palestinians are treading carefully. They say they won’t apply as yet. However, by having Yasser Arafat’s remains exhumed in a grand military ceremony, for samples to be tested for poison in Paris and Moscow, they have set a road sign pointing to The Hague.
The Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning the food given Arafat after he was confined in his Ramallah headquarters under siege in 2002. A special team of IDF officers examined every item of food and drink provided him.
Elected president seven years ago, his term ran out, according to the Palestinian constitution, in 2009.
The illegitimate Ramallah regime
The same goes for the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was elected in 2006 in a vote that gave Hamas a majority. Since then, Abu Mazen has suspended the Council’s work. There is frequent talk in Ramallah of new elections but nothing comes of it, partly for fear of giving the rival Hamas another chance to gobble up the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip.
So the Palestinian president and prime minister holding court in the seat of government in Ramallah lack legal authority for ruling the West Bank or representing the Palestinian people to the outside world. They are only kept in power by seven battalions of special forces financed by the US. Their corrupt administration runs day to day affairs only with the help of donations from Western and Arab governments and Israeli economic aid. Without regular Israeli cash infusions in recent months, Abu Mazen’s regime would not have covered the payroll for the members of his bloated administration and security services.
The UN farce
The Palestinian UN Ambassador may now get a bigger office at UN Center in New York with a view of the East River. But in Ramallah, after the well-orchestrated celebrations in honor of Abu Mazen are over, nothing will change. The toxicology tests on Arafat’s remains are awaited there in the hope of some drama. But the real hub of Palestinian affairs has moved from Ramallah to Gaza City.
Pilgrimages to Gaza
He will be accompanied by the deposed Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. So far, he has not persuaded Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh to welcome Mahmoud Abbas as a token of Palestinian unity.
The disunity is such that when Abbas’ foreign minister Riyad Malki tried to enter the Gaza Strip with a party of Arab foreign ministers in the course of ceasefire talks, he was stopped at the Rafah crossing by Hamas security guards who denied his standing.
None of the Arab ministers interceded on his behalf. They just left him at the gate.
Erdogan will therefore not make Abbas’s company a precondition for his own Gaza visit. For him its importance lies in his being the second Muslim visitor to Gaza after the ruler of Qatar’s arrival on Oct. 23.
At some future point, the dormant Middle East Quartet may wake up and revive its stipulation for Hamas to give up terrorism and its ambition to eradicate Israel – the key points of its “resistance” posture – in order to buy international acceptance.