Prospects for Security, Peace, and Reform in the Abbas Era

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Khalil Shikaki and Michael Herzog - Shikaki: If Abbas is to succeed, he must deal with the issue of violence. In the eyes of the public, violence pays. Three-fourths of Palestinians perceive the disengagement as a victory for violence. Abbas must help remove dynamics that encourage the public to believe in the utility of violence; otherwise, the issue will continue to impede his ability to govern effectively. When Fatah convinced Marwan Barghouti to pull out of the presidential race, it effectively deferred resolving the question of violence. During the municipal elections held recently in some parts of Gaza, Hamas candidates did much better than Fatah candidates, highlighting the prevailing perception among Palestinians that Fatah is not fit to govern at the local level. This is a serious disability that Abbas will have to deal with soon, given the pressure of the upcoming elections in many West Bank municipalities and, later, for the parliament. If Abbas does not crack down on corruption immediately, Islamists will likely win control over the local councils scheduled to hold elections in April. Currently, when it comes to the most sensitive functions, he is using individuals who are perceived to be kings of corruption. Herzog: After Arafat died, the frequency of terrorist incidents in Gaza increased sharply. Through these attacks, militants want to show Israel that it will be leaving Gaza under fire, and that the disengagement will be cast as a victory for their armed struggle. Even if a ceasefire is reached, the situation cannot remain calm for long if Abbas does not make serious efforts to preserve it. Israel is worried that Hamas will use any quiet period to regroup for future terrorist attacks. A ceasefire needs to be developed into a meaningful security plan that also addresses the terrorist infrastructure. In the 2003 ceasefire, the agreement that the PA reached with Hamas differed on some key points with the agreement it reached with the IDF - differences that quickly caused the ceasefire to break down. If the disengagement is smooth and quiet and viewed as a success, both sides can move toward talks. If the process unfolds under violence, however, it will discourage any Israeli government from continuing along such lines.

2005-02-10 00:00:00

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