The quartet: It conjures up images of strings and harmonies. But the quartet that has undertaken to seek peace between Israel and the Palestinians is something a little different. Of the four, only the United States has shown any sympathy for Israel. The European Union, Russia and the United Nations have been strongly pro-Palestinian for many decades. It's like asking a quartet consisting of Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and Bruce Willis to mediate between the United States and Iraq. But never mind, what about the substance?
President Bush, no doubt in part to lighten the burden shouldered by Tony Blair (who met with fierce resistance from his own party over the Iraq war), has agreed to move forward with the "road map" for Middle East peace that will feature a Palestinian State by the year 2005.
The road map was released after the Palestinian Legislative Council agreed to appoint Mahmoud Abbas (more commonly called Abu Mazen) as the new prime minister. Though Mazen is usually characterized in the United States as a "moderate," there are reasons for skepticism on this score. He has declared that the terror campaign against Israel over the past two years was a mistake, but he seems to believe that it was a tactical, not a moral, mistake. As The Wall Street Journal reports, he told a group of Fatah activists, "By resorting to violence, we've played right into the hands of Ariel Sharon and the Israeli right wing."
Mazen dresses in suits instead of fatigues and carries no visible gun. But he has been a top Arafat deputy for more than 30 years. This hardly qualifies him as a new broom. In 1984, he published a book called The Other Face: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism, which purports to prove that the Holocaust is a fiction. Mazen claims that fewer than 1 million Jews died during World War II.
Regarding negotiations with Israel, Mazen does not depart much from the Arafat script. He does not think that the last Camp David meeting failed because an opportunity for progress was spurned. As he told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam: "I say there was no opportunity. No opportunity was offered by anyone. Unacceptable ideas were raised. ..."
Mazen has also reiterated many times his inflexibility on the matter of the so-called "right of return" for Palestinians. Along with Arafat, he insists that any settlement with Israel include the right of millions of Palestinians to return to "their" land in Israel or be compensated for it. He has rejected any suggestion that Israelis be compensated for the land they left in Arab hands in 1948.