According to the NY Times, Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has upped the ante in the Israeli standoff with the new Hamas government by declaring Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas persona non grata:
Israel’s foreign minister said Sunday that Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was “no longer relevant” in a Palestinian government that will soon be led by the militant Islamic group Hamas.
The remarks by the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, are consistent with the tough stance Israel has adopted as Hamas prepares to take power, but her view is at odds with the efforts by the United States and the European Union to work with Mr. Abbas and to bolster him.
On Saturday, an American envoy, David Welch, met with Mr. Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah and expressed support for his leadership.
I find it interesting that Israel usually, at least on its face, attempts to be in step with U.S. policy toward the Palestinians. And stated U.S. policy is that Mahmoud Abbas is a valuable and strategic partner for peace. This makes Livni’s comments a real slap in the face to Condi Rice who firmly believes in Abbas because…well, because there isn’t much other choice is there? If you can’t deal with Abbas, who will you deal with? No one? Is no one a viable choice? I guess for Livni and prime minister Ehud Olmert it appears to be.
Their strategy seems to involve reverting back to Sharon’s unilateral approach to Israeli-Palestinian relations. This means that Olmert will announce withdrawals from selected West Bank settlements and then declare those Israel’s “final position.” In essence, he’ll be saying that this will fix Israel’s international border; thus presenting Hamas and any other international entity that objects with a fait accompli. Like a mafia don, he will dare them by saying: “Whadaya gonna do about it?”
Such unilaterism does not require that he interact with Palestinians or their elected government at all. The separation between Israel and Palestine will continue and become further institutionalized in Israeli political and social life. All of which is beyond sad. It’s tragic. And some day this will change. This attitude will be overthrown. It has to be. Human life and society does not allow for walls. Humans want to interact with each other. They need intercourse. They need contact. My fear is that the longer this benighted policy reigns supreme the harder it will become to undo its pernicious impact when the era of peace does come. Only then will we be able to count the toll in suffering and hardship (for both sides) that this frigid policy has caused.