It looked better on television than in these stills – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was wearing a beautiful, sophisticated medium blue tie with irregular white shapes on it, for his meeting in Abu Dhabi on Saturday with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Special Envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell.
It was really a fashion statement, and a new look for the Palestinian president. The blue was beautiful — just the perfect medium deep but lumious blue color of the blue ink that is used to full classic, old-fashioned fountain pens. I do not recall Abu Mazen ever wearing such a beautiful and sophisticated tie. This is absolutely his best tie.
Sa’eb Erekat, to the President’s left, was wearing a very nice teal blue tie, as well — but he’s worn it before. (It was the teal-blue equivalent of the beautiful sunset-colored saffron or rose Thai silk ties that the U.S. State Department Arabic translator has often worn on his visits to the region…)
In a statement later released by the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit, which he heads, Erekat said that “What the Middle East peace process desperately needs right now is credibility, not more ‘process’. If there is one lesson that the last sixteen years of negotiations has taught us, it is that negotiations for their own sake do not create a horizon of hope, but instead provide a cover behind which Israel will further entrench its occupation, and continue to create ‘facts on the ground’ that foreclose any prospect for a two-state solution”. But, hardworking as he is, Erekat often does not have the last word.
Yasser Abed Rabbo — who used to be a fashion plate back in Beirut in the early 1980’s (fine cognac suede battle jacket, grey pleated trousers) — was wearing a dull and boring grey-and-black diagonal striped politburo tie.
Abu Mazen had also apparently been to the hairdresser, and had a very professional blow-dry, too.
Beautiful blues were the theme of the day. Interestingly, a few hours later, when Clinton arrived in Israel and spoke to the press with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu by her side, the backdrop was also a very unusual aqua blue that set off the colors of the Israeli and American flags to perfection. Netanyahu — who often prefers to wear presidential red ties — was today also wearing a nice bluer-blue (not teal blue) tie – in the same tone as the blue part of the Israeli flag.
Clinton’s hand gestures in her visit to the region were surprisingly irritating — she needs a coach. In remarks during her joint press conference with Netanyahu, Clinton said that she has not changed her position on the need for an Israeli freeze on settlement-building (despite the widespread interpretation to the contrary), as she explained in this exchange with a journalist:
Clinton: The important thing as the Prime Minister just said is to get into the negotiations. I gave the same message today when I met with President Abbas. We know that negotiations often take positions that then have to be worked through once the actual process starts. I think the best way to determine the way forward is as the Prime Minister said – Get on the path.
New York Times (travelling press?): Madam Secretary, when you were here in March on your first visit, you issued a strong statement condemning the demolition of housing in East Jerusalem. Yet that demolition has continued unabated, and indeed a few days ago the Mayor of the City of Jerusalem issued a new order for demolition. How would you characterize this policy today? …
Clinton: Well, let me say I have nothing to add to my statement in March. I continue to stand by what I said then …”
However, just a few minutes later, in the same press conference, Clinton said that Netanyahu had made an “unprecedented” offer on settlements: “What the Prime Minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements which he has just described – no new starts for example, is unprecedented in the context of prior-to negotiations. It’s also the fact that for forty years, presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements, but I think that where we are right now is to try to get into the negotiations. The Prime Minister will be able to present his government’s proposal about what they are doing regarding settlements which I think when fully explained will be seen as being not only unprecedented in response to many of the concerns that have been expressed. You know, there are always demands made in any negotiation that are not going to be fully realized. I mean negotiation by its very definition is a process of trying to meet the other’s needs while protecting your core interests, and on settlements there’s never been a pre-condition. There’s never been such an offer from any Israeli government and we hope that we’ll be able to move into the negotiations where all the issues that President Obama mentioned in his speech at the United Nations will be on the table for the parties to begin to resolve”. [Her husband, Bill Clinton, said the same thing about the Israeli proposals tabled during the failed Camp David peace negotiations between the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak in July 2000, just before the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada…]
In an article today in Haaretz, Gideon Levy commented that “In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait? But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another. Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don’t change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America’s automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world’s policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways. Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 – which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement – then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched … Israel of 2009 is a spoiled country, arrogant and condescending, convinced that it deserves everything and that it has the power to make a fool of America and the world. The United States has engendered this situation, which endangers the entire Mideast and Israel itself. That is why there needs to be a turning point in the coming year – Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation. An unambiguous, presidential no”. This Gideon Levy piece can be read in full here.
None of this, of course, is very helpful to Abu Mazen…
Coming back to the very important matter of visuals: Abu Mazen wore lighter colors for his appearance a week ago before his televised appearance at a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council (the gathering was in the Palestinian Presidential headquarters in Ramallah, the Muqata’a) — this was also a very good look: lighter grey suit, and a beautiful greyed-pink tie.
Abu Mazen has clearly had a recent make-over. It is a success, if you want to look rich and powerful. Or, presidential. [Never mind that he has reportedly, again, recently threatened to resign. Watch the ties.] Abu Mazen now seems to change his ties several different times a day — and they’re almost all new ties, and very nice ones at that. Who is the stylist?