Joined: 24 Feb 2003
|Posted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 5:06 am Post subject: From 'Strong Man' to 'Good Man'
|From 'Strong Man' to 'Good Man'
Mahmoud Abbas sets out to be the un-Arafat.
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
January 10, 2005
RAMALLAH, West Bank--It is past noon on Friday, and the women packed in the municipal center here--some 1,400 by my rough count--have been waiting with diminishing patience for Mahmoud Abbas to make his scheduled 11:00 appearance. To keep them going, the mistress of ceremonies is breathing fire. "The way of Abu Mazen is the way of Abu Amr!" she says--or rather, screams--into the microphone, referring to Mr. Abbas and the late Yasser Arafat, respectively. "To Jerusalem we march in the millions!"
This goes on for another half hour, during which people in the audience approach foreign journalists to share their stories and opinions. One woman, who won't give her name, says she has three sons in Israeli prisons. Will she vote for Abu Mazen? "Yes, if he gets my boys out." Nadya, 29, from El Bireh, wants Abu Mazen to follow in Arafat's footsteps. "Any time someone needed medical treatment, Abu Amr paid for it from his own pocket, without going through any ministries." Samia, 40, a mother of seven from Nablus, says she hopes "all the money won't be spent on weapons any more."
"The women are widows," she says. "It's time for the women to have a rest. I want peace with the Jews. I don't want children getting killed anymore."
At last, the drum corps of a local youth movement strikes a march, announcing the candidate's arrival. Mr. Abbas comes to the podium dressed in his customary business suit, although he adorns it with a small scarf patterned like a kaffiyeh. He begins by saying he's ill and cannot speak for long. It's not just a personal remark: Lowering expectations is what Mr. Abbas's candidacy is largely about.
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