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Who is Abbas? Not even experts can answer that

If I can believe what I’ve been reading in the media, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – aka Abu Mazen – is better than sliced pita bread; the second coming incarnate; and the missing link for peace all rolled into one.
That’s not my impression of this contradictory political operator. In recent years, Abbas has been involved with peace efforts, but he also co-founded Fatah, which fomented modern terrorism. This shrewd pragmatist is highly skilled at doling out carefully crafted platitudes to fit his audience. To wit:
• “We are ready for peace. We hope that Israel’s response will be positive.” Comments made to international election observers in early January.
• “The struggle against the Zionist enemy will continue.'” December speech in Gaza, cheered for regurgitating Hamas’ favorite phrase.
• “It is impossible to liberate Palestine with the use of weapons.” Recent CNN interview.
• “We didn’t talk about a break in the armed struggle. It is our right to resist. The intifada must continue.” Interview last March with London’s Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper in which he asserted that Israeli settlements were fair game even during ceasefires.
Experts can’t agree who he really is:
• “Abbas is as hard-line as Arafat,” says Itamar Marcus, editor of Jerusalem’s Palestinian Media Watch. “He has openly said he won’t destroy the terror infrastructure.”
• “He’s moderate and cautiously weighs all the options,” Jon Alterman, Middle East program director, Center for Strategic and International studies, says.
• “The real Abu Mazen is the guy who financed the Munich massacre [of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics], is a Holocaust denier and in later years decided to try something else,” the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs’ Shoshana Bryen told Insight magazine.
• “He’s not Mother Teresa,” notes Hisham Melham, Washington Bureau Chief for Beirut’s As-Safir newspaper. “But he has a consistent vision.”
Abbas carries considerable baggage. He never convincingly condemns violence, spurning it only for practical reasons. “When criticizing suicide terror, he has argued it was a tactical mistake, not morally wrong,” Marcus contends. “He asked terrorists to stop shooting missiles into Israel because it is ‘useless.’ The obvious message is that if it were useful, terrorism is a valid tool.”
Refuses to compromise
Abbas controls the Palestinian Authority’s television station, which broadcasts sermons urging Israel’s destruction and other hateful programming such as a professor calling for genocide of Jews as “a religious obligation and a necessary part of Islamic history.”
While advocating the two-state solution endorsed by the moribund “road map” for peace, he refuses to compromise on its most contentious issues: the right of return of four million Palestinian exiles, Jerusalem or final borders. He turns a blind eye to corrupt politicians such as those who bought cheap concrete in Egypt last year, secretly sold it for a healthy profit to Israeli companies that are building the separation fence/wall to keep out terrorists, but also severely disrupts the lives of many other Palestinians.
Cagey chameleon
His son Yasser, a Canadian citizen, has cornered the electronics industry (with PA assistance) and owns the largest media company in the territories. Accused of corruption by his father’s opponents, they circulated leaflets just before the election asking, “Would you want the man who raised this son to lead and educate the rising Palestinian generation?”
Note to the Bush administration as well as members of the media and academia who have a crush on Mahmoud Abbas: Don’t crank up the Nobel Peace Prize bandwagon just yet. This cagey chameleon has a lot of explaining to do first.