Abbas’ role in stalling the peace process must not go ignored

No, not Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rather, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – now in the 16th year of his initial four-year term.

Amid dire warnings that Netanyahu’s plan to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank will kill the two-state solution (including by Neheda Barakat in The Canberra Times on June 11), insufficient attention has been paid to Abbas’ dilatory leadership. It is this which, for all intents and purposes, effectively put such peace hopes into deep freeze long ago.

It was Abbas who reportedly encouraged Yasser Arafat to reject Israeli PM Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David precisely 20 years ago.

Abbas biographer Grant Rumley notes that he was one of the “least-flexible members of the Palestinian delegation. It was a shocking revelation for American and Israeli negotiators”.

Succeeding Arafat following his death, Abbas won a landslide in the 2005 presidential elections.

But faced with his own two-state Rubicon in 2008, Abbas, as he himself put it, rejected “out of hand” Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of a state on the equivalent of 100 per cent of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and a capital in east Jerusalem.

Read the article by Allon Lee in The Canberra Times.