Weekend at Bernie’s (PA edition)

The Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations occurring in Washington are a complete and utter farce better geared to produce war than peace. One reason that they seem farcical is little remarked upon.
The “peace process” is to culminate in a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. Yet Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 after parliamentary elections that it won in 2006. Hamas now controls Gaza with an iron fist and it rejects the right of the state of Israel to exist. The Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas is in no position to exert authority over Gaza. One wonders how the little wrinkle involving Gaza is treated in the negotiations. It is barely mentioned in news accounts.
The situation in the West Bank is not much better. With the assistance of Israel, the PLO has maintained control, but not legitimacy. Mahmoud Abbas’s term in office as president of the PA expired in January 2009, nearly two years ago, right about the time Barack Obama was being sworn in.
Abbas extended his term in office for another year, stating the Basic Law gave him the right to do so, so he could align the next presidential and parliamentary elections. Pointing to the Palestinian constitution, Hamas disputed the validity of this move. In any event, the additional year in office that he granted himself has expired.
What is Abbas doing in office now? The PLO decided to extend Abbas’s term indefinitely earlier this year. Because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, and because of the popularity of Hamas, elections have become impractical.
The presidency of Mahmoud Abbas presents a case of Weekend at Bernie‘s writ large. The situation with the PA prime minister is not much clearer or more edifying.
I write to add this footnote to the current negotiations simply because it has been a long time since I have seen any news report that notes this element of their political context. Ben Smith’s report today on the negotiations provides a good example of this deficiency.
UPDATE: As luck would have it, Mona Charen elucidates the points of my footnote this morning in “These talks are doomed,” and John Podhoretz adds a footnote to my footnote in “Peace.”


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