Mediating the Gaza truce was a bravura diplomatic performance by Egypt’s new President Mohamed Mursi, jacking up his personal stature and reassuring an anxious Washington that the architecture of Middle East peace can survive the Arab Spring.
For nearly two years, Washington has fretted over what would happen in a major showdown between Israel and the Palestinians without the Arab autocrats that kept stability for decades, above all Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who presented himself as the personal guarantor of its 1979 peace with Israel.
Why is it that Hamas — purveyor of terror, launcher of Iranian-supplied rockets, and source of “death to the Jews” tropes — is getting more attention, traction, legitimacy and support than the “good” Palestinian, the reasonable and grandfatherly Mahmoud Abbas, who has foresworn violence in favor of negotiations? Since the crisis began, President Obama seems to have talked to every other Middle Eastern leader except Abbas.
Abbas’s party is in disarray. The Islamists‘ victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, its takeover of Gaza in 2007, Fatah‘s own sense of political drift, and the absence of a credible peace process created an opening for Hamas — the religious manifestation of Palestinian nationalism. Had Yasir Arafat still been alive, Hamas would never have come as far as it has.