Ramallah vs. the "Peace Process"
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If Mahmoud Abbas does not have the power or courage to allow an Israel-based clothing shop to open branch near his residence in Ramallah, how will he ever be able to make peace with Israel?
This is the question some Palestinian businessmen have been asking during the past few days in light of an organized campaign to prevent the Fox clothing chain from opening a store in the city.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's strenuous efforts to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority led two Israeli Arab businessmen to take the initiative and open the first Fox store in the West Bank.
After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations and the training of employees, the two businessmen soon found themselves at the center of a protest organized by "Anti-normalization" activists and journalists.
Facing daily threats, the two entrepreneurs decided to call off the project, which would have provided jobs to nearly 150 Palestinians.
Although the Palestinian Authority gave permission to the two businessmen to open the Ramallah Fox branch, it was yet unable to do anything to protect them against the threats, including calls for fire-bombing the store.
The opening of a clothing store in Ramallah may be a minor issue, especially compared with the major and explosive issues facing Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
But this incident, in which a clothing shop is forced -- under threats -- to withdraw plans to open branch in a Palestinian city, is an indication of what awaits Abbas if and when he dares to reach any agreement with Israel.
The same "anti-normalization" movement that Abbas supports will be the first to turn against him if he strikes a deal with Israel.
Although Fox clothes are immensely popular among young Palestinian men and women, the fashion retailer did not have a branch in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
While many Palestinian merchants have been quietly selling Fox clothes in several Palestinian cities, they are particularly afraid of the strong "anti-normalization" movement that prohibits any form of contact with Israelis.
Ironically, this movement is fully supported by the same Palestinian Authority and Fatah leaders whose leaders do not hesitate to conduct public meetings with Israelis, in addition to security coordination with the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.
Just this week, senior Fatah officials were invited to the Knesset for talks with Israeli colleagues about peace and coexistence; and earlier, Fatah leaders in Ramallah hosted scores of Israeli politicians, including members of the Likud and Shas parties, to an event organized by the joint Israeli-Palestinian Geneva Initiative group.
The campaign against the opening of a Fox store in Ramallah also coincided with the launching of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington.
While Palestinian activists were busy threatening the owners of the clothing store, their representatives, Saeb Erekat and Mohamed Shtayyeh, were sitting with Israeli minister Tzipi Livni in Washington and talking about ways of achieving peace and coexistence between the two sides.
What Kerry and the U.S. Administration need to understand is that Abbas has failed to prepare his people for the possibility of peace with Israel. Abbas may be conducting peace talks with Israel, but at the same time he is also backing campaigns that promote boycotts and hatred of Israel. It is important to talk peace. But it is even more important to educate people about peace -- something that neither Yasser Arafat nor his successor Abbas has done for the past two decades.
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