Did you ever notice how beautifully Mahmoud Abbas’ suits fit him? For a guy who is not exactly a matinee idol, the tailoring that has been lavished on his attire is stunning. I suppose, if your four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority still hasn’t expired after ten years in office, that leaves you with plenty of time to have clothes fitted. After all, it’s not as if Abbas is spending his time campaigning for re-election. It turns out that the Palestinian notion of ‘democracy’ is fully consistent with political office-holders retaining their offices indefinitely. And this makes perfect sense, because…well, just because.
You might think that, under the circumstances, the Palestinian man-in-the-street would be getting pretty darn sick of Mr. Abbas, and in fact you would be correct. A poll recently reported in The Times of Israel showed that 65% of Palestinians want him to resign. The same poll also revealed that, if there actually were to be an election for president of the PA, the nattily-attired Mr. Abbas would nonetheless lose to practically any candidate, spiffy or not, representing Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that is the man-in-the-street’s current favorite. The successful Hamas candidate would probably do his campaigning in an open-necked shirt and khuffiya, which gives you some idea of the popularity of silk ties and Windsor knots in Ramallah.
The Obama administration regularly warns Israel and its supporters of all the terrible consequences that might follow if Mr. Abbas were someday no longer to be president of the PA. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is a pretty sharp dresser himself, regularly issues the most dire predictions along these lines. It’s almost as if the Obama administration believes that, if PM Netanyahu would just be a little nicer to Abbas, then Abbas would live forever and, of course, would also go on as the president of the PA forever. I would think it is unlikely, no matter how tenderly he is treated by this or any other Israeli government, that Mr. Abbas would actually attain immortality, but perhaps this is one of those subjects about which reasonable minds can differ.
What in fact would be the consequences if Abbas were, at long last, to step down from his post? Lacking a crystal ball, I certainly am unable to say, but I think lots of other people who pretend to have a crystal ball also pretend to have very accurate views as to precisely what those consequences would be. Hamas would take over; ISIS would take over; chaos would reign; all Palestinians would necessarily become Israeli citizens overnight…the parade of horribles is pretty horrible. Still, one would have to be a prophet to predict with certainty, and prophets are harder to find than they used to be.
My guess—and your guess is just as good as mine here—is that, when the day comes that Abbas is no longer the president of the PA, not very much is going to change at all. Oh, there will be some changes, of course—someone other than Abbas will have to fill the office of president, and that obviously will be a change. But, although the personalities will be different, the fundamental issues, I think, will be unchanged. Neither Hamas nor ISIS will be taking control of the West Bank, because Israel would not permit such a thing to happen and Israel is strong enough to prevent it. Nor would Israel give citizenship to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank—neither Palestinians nor Israelis want that to happen.
My guess is that the new president will confront the same fundamental problem that Abbas confronts: he’ll want at all costs to avoid assassination, and he’ll realize that, to achieve that end, he’ll have to accommodate, rather than confront, Islamist terrorist groups like Hamas. (There is a reason Abbas hasn’t set his well-shod foot in Gaza since 2007, when Hamas seized control. The reason is he doesn’t want to be assassinated.) But, as long as Islamist terrorists control a substantial part of the territory of the putative Palestinian state—that is, Gaza—there will be no Palestinian state, because Israel is not going to recognize and give its blessing to a Palestinian state controlled in whole or in part by terrorists. So, Abbas or no Abbas, we will be back right where we are today. That’s my guess, for what it’s worth.
I have one more guess: the man who succeeds Abbas as president of the PA will look as if he had been poured into the suits he wears. It comes with the job.