Foreign Policy Blogs


Look: I know this is just a snapshot, and the other is an official portrait.   And I know Mahmoud Abbas might have been smiling a second beforehand.  But the calm half-smile in the photo above his head contrasted with the glum, depressed and lost look he has now is too good (read: easy) a metaphor to ignore.


(Photo: Abbas Momani, via New York Times)

Abbas came in as everything the man to the left of his photo was not: pragmatic where Arafat was impulsive, evolutionary to Arafat's unending revolution, projecting competency where Arafat was ignorant, and- perhaps most importantly- honest where Arafat was wildly corrupt.   If not excited, war battered Palestinians had a weary relief that a new chapter might have been beginning. 

 But it hasn't worked out; even modest expectations have been dashed.  Hamas first won control of Gaza through an election, then consolidated control by winning a hideous civil war.  Abbas has tried to negotiate with Israel, but to do so has had to ignore Hamas.  This proved to be impossible as Hamas upped the ante by goading Israel into attacking them.  

So now you have a battered and dispirited Abbas listening to a lame-duck envoy, sitting under a picture of a man whose spirit has long since left.   This conflict looks as if it has managed to chew up one of the few decent leaders produced from unrelenting violence and chaos.  



Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill is a freelance writer currently based out of Chicago. He has lived in Egypt and in Yemen, and worked as a writer and editor for the Yemen Observer publishing company. He currently is an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation.