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At an event titled “Palestine After the UN: What’s Next?,” Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani had a simple answer to the question posed.
“Nobody really knows,” began Rabbani, who specializes in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Rabbani continued by explaining to the audience of nearly 30 his belief that the Palestinian Authority has no coherent strategy. Rabbani also said that many of the leadership’s tactics are a reflection of President Mahmoud Abbas’s “petulant personality.”
Rabbani introduced the topic by jumping back in time to 2008 and reminding the audience of the optimism Palestinians had about the coming Obama presidency.
“From the perspective of the Palestinian leadership, the state of Palestine was all but established,” Rabbani said.
But he said their hopes were repeatedly dashed.
“As an international official I spoke to put it so well, Obama appeared to the Palestinians as a Jesus-like savior figure, but within not too many months became much more akin to a Judas,” Rabbani said.
After losing hope in Obama—who, Rabbini said, failed to understand how much Israel has changed over the past two decades—the Palestinians have failed to execute a consistent strategy, according to Rabbini.
He argued that a major reason for the lack of a strategy is the schism between Hamas and Fatah, the two largest rival factions in the Palestinian territories.
In his second appearance at Harvard, and first in nearly five years, Rabbani outlined a number of recent Palestinian attempts to kick-start negotiations with Israel and revive the United States’ interest in the peace process.
“I think he mentioned very good points about the sort of internal politics between Fatah and Hamas and the importance of reconciliation from their perspectives,” said Richard C. Wright, a fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs who attended the event.
“I know there are a number of issues on which there are divergent views, but it was a very good scene-setter for the current scene of play. He touched on all of the main issues.”
Rabbani said he hopes to see the Palestinian leadership govern more in their own national interest than act with potential U.S. and Israeli reactions constantly in mind.
“What was interesting was his careful critique of the current Palestinian Authority leadership and Mahmoud Abbas,” said Everett Mendelsohn, an attendee and professor of history of science emeritus. “His major thrust was that he didn’t see a careful enough policy guidance.”
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