Sharon-Abbas Face-Off

(New York Times) Steven Erlanger - After beating the war drums over Gaza to get the attention of Mahmoud Abbas, Israel has now put aside plans for a full-scale invasion to allow him further time to get Palestinian radicals and militants under better control. In the end, it was a nerve-racking but perhaps productive exercise in brinkmanship. Contrary to appearances, the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is relatively close at senior levels, with an intimate understanding of each side's political problems. The Israelis and Palestinians seem at this early date to be finding a modus operandi - so long as they avoid the appearance of working together too closely. Leaders on both sides are operating in a fragile environment that they know can be disrupted by any serious act of terrorism. "The basic problem now is that we have an expectations gap," said Aaron David Miller, a former American negotiator on the Middle East. "The Israelis are expecting too much of Abu Mazen, and he's not expecting enough of himself." Zakariya al-Qaq, a Palestinian political analyst, said Abbas had to be careful not to be seen to be doing Sharon's bidding. "The moment he does what Sharon wants him to do, he loses his legitimacy." In addition, Syria and Iran have a major influence over Hamas and Hizballah. "Syria and Iran want to create problems for Israel," Qaq said. A long-term cease-fire is not in those countries' interests, nor is a separate Israeli-Palestinian peace, he said.

2005-01-21 00:00:00

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