Sunday, January 09, 2005

A new beginning?

As I write, the Palestinian people are choosing Abu Mazen as their new leader. He is expected to win by a landslide and will hopefully receive a high percentage of the votes so as to grant him an acceptable mandate with which to move ahead. He is not Arafat (hopefully for good as well as for bad) and therefore requires a victory which shows that he has the support of the vast majority of Palestinians.

That he will be chosen ahead of any other candidate has never been in any doubt; the important thing about the election therefore has never been the result, but the very fact that, in an Arab country, such an election is taking place at all. Of just as great importance is that the poll must be not just fair, but be seen to be fair, with the opportunity for all eligible voters to make their voices heard and no question of skullduggery. Early reports are contradictory with the PA at once complaining about Israeli security whilst not providing any specific cases regarding blocking of access to polling stations. Small scale protests (which included an Israeli MK) have been thwarted.

We all stand by waiting to see Abu Mazen's actions in the light of the election - the speeches made prior to the election, which will doubtless be endlessly quoted by the right, should be seen as having been tools, used whilst campaigning on the stump in order to drum up appropriate support. Ascribing too much meaning to these statements is simply pointless and counterproductive. In the light of the election, he will have a grace period in which we will be able to more accurately ascertain his true intentions - whether his policy is based on the carrot of his own people or the stick of the Quartet, I hope that it will reflect his reputation as a pragmatist so that we can get back to living our lives without having to regard every Arab as a potential suicide bomber, but rather as potentially a good neighbour.


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