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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Abbas en tournée européenne

by Pierre Barbancey

Abbas on European Tour

Translated Wednesday 25 February 2009, by Kristina Wischenkamper

Middle East : The Palestinian leader’s diplomatic meetings, which began yesterday here in Paris, are taking place just as the bombs have started falling again on Gaza.

It’s all symbolic. Leaving the Elysée yesterday, where he had been received by Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell was shielded by umbrellas. Rain certainly, but it does seem that where the Middle East is concerned, diplomacy comes with the sound of bombs falling. Israel, using the pretext of rockets being fired that caused no damage (human, thankfully), nor had any political aim (whence the inanity of the act), dropped some missiles on the Gaza strip that is, to be sure, already saturated. As though Tel-Aviv and Hamas were playing a duet, to make sure that they kept their sandpit all to themselves, and never mind the Israeli or Palestinian people, talking about a truce of a year or a year and a half, of reopening the border crossings, of smuggling arms …

Little is known about Mitchell’s visit. One has to fall back on the global mandate given to him by the new American president “to assure the security of Israel and make sure that Palestinians in Gaza receive the basic provisions they need”. Of course there is talk – without a hint of irony – about the “means for restarting the Israeli–Palestinian peace process” as though it were necessary to invent something new. As though the solution isn’t already known to everyone. Something really smells rotten.

Let’s begin with the attitude of the Western countries who seem able to ignore the ever more detailed accusations of Israeli war crimes and intend to take not the least coercive action against the leaders of the Israeli officers.

There is also the redistribution of cards in the Middle East. New players, kept away from the table until now, are newly admitted into the framework of the regional calculations which take into account only peripherally a solution to the Palestinian problem – in any case are not to the letter of international law. Turning to France, whose president is only too eager to put himself in the service of American interests: the new links with Syria are an undertone of this acceptance. A week ago Ahmed Youssef, representative of Hamas in Gaza, said that “nothing could be achieved” without the Islamic organisation. He wasn’t wrong. The new Western tactic no longer aims to fight the Isalmic movements but to integrate them.

Such is the case in Iraq, ever since the invasion of the country. It’s the case in Afghanistan, where all parties (with the exception of the communists who are virtually in hiding) proclaim Islam, including president Karzai’s party. And that’s without mentioning the Gulf monarchies who shamelessly practise sharia law.

How else, otherwise, can one explain this new attitude from the French, who plead for a reconciliation between Palestinians, push the idea of a united Palestinian government or a national entity with which they would be ready to negotiate, when Hamas, until now has been the subject of a boycott by the West, bringing the humanitarian consequences for the Palestinians which we know only too well. That is also why Mahmoud Abbas can be received at the Elysée, as part of a European tour, when the stakes have been raised between Palestinians, the president of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas around the question of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) the sole guarantor for the peace treaties signed with Israel.

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