Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Sunday, January 16, 2005

What is Going on Here?

The CNN Headline reads: "Israel orders crackdown; PLO calls for end to violence"

Well, Israel is no stranger to cracking down - usually in a very violent manner. Ariel Sharon was an effecgive (read: dead Palestinians) general before he was elected. And the PLO has certainly called for an end to the violence before (although it was hard to take such calls seriously, when the same people were stirring up violence in the very next breath).

What we have here is nevertheless a bit of a puzzler. "Moderate" leader Mahmoud Abbas was overwhelmingly elected to succeed Yasser Arafat last week. The next day (and without any provocation that I could detect), Israel deployed troops and made some aggressive statements. The Palestinian response - at least from the text of the linked article - was stunning: "The PLO's executive committee announced Sunday 'that the Palestinians are ready to carry out their obligations to stop violence against Israelis anywhere.'"

Is it all just blowing smoke? It certainly could be, although it doesn't quite seem to fall into the past history of peace gestures and threatenings. Palestinians usually react to Israeli crackdowns with fiery rhetoric, not peace overtures. And consider this:

"Erakat said Abbas, who also heads the PLO, planned a trip to Gaza on Wednesday 'in order to get all Palestinian factions to agree to this call.'"

Again, it is all I can do not to read this through the lenses of extreme skepticism, but apparently there's an undying optimist in me somewhere. No, I'm not optimistic that Abbas' trip will have the intended effect - that of Palestinian unification around a pledge to peace. I'm cautiously optimistic only that Abbas will be what he said he would be: a moderate.

My older brother bets five bucks there will be an explosion in connection with Wednesday's trip. Any takers?