Charles Krauthammer

If that fails to concentrate the mind, the next step should be to cut off electricity. When the world wails, Israel should ask, what other country on earth is expected to supply the very means for a declared enemy to attack it? But let's remember who Abbas is. He appears well intentioned but he is afflicted with near-disastrous weaknesses. He controls little. His troops in Gaza simply collapsed against the greatly outnumbered forces of Hamas. His authority in the West Bank is far from universal. He does not even control the various factions within Fatah.

But the greater liability is his character. He is weak and indecisive. When he was Yasser Arafat's deputy, Abbas was known to respond to being slapped down by his boss by simply disappearing for weeks in a sulk. During the battle for Gaza, he did not order his Fatah forces to return fire against the Hamas insurrection until the fight was essentially over. Remember, too, that after Arafat's death Abbas ran the Palestinian Authority without a Hamas presence for more than a year. Can you name a single thing he achieved in that time?

Moreover, his Fatah party is ideologically spent and widely discredited. Historian Michael Oren points out that the Palestinian Authority has received more per capita aid than did Europe under the Marshall Plan. This astonishing largesse has disappeared into lavish villas for party bosses and guns for the multiple militias Arafat established.

The West is rushing to bolster Abbas. Israel will release hundreds of millions in tax monies. The U.S. and the EU will be pouring in aid. All praise Abbas as a cross between Anwar Sadat and Simon Bolivar. Fine. We have no choice but to support him. But before we give him the moon, we should insist upon reasonable benchmarks of both moderation and good governance -- exactly what we failed to do during the Oslo process. Abbas needs to demonstrate his ability to run a clean administration and to engage Israel in day-to-day negotiations to alleviate the conditions of life on the ground.

Abbas is not Hamas. But despite the geographical advantages, he does not represent the second coming either. We can prop him up only so much. In the end, the only one who can make a success of the West Bank is Abbas himself. This is his chance. His last chance.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

Be the first to read Krauthammer's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.