The Interregnum

James Bennet in the New York Times Magazine:

Mahmoud_abbas_1…national coherence and democratic aspiration combine to explain why, on Arafat’s death, the Palestinian public pivoted from Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas and why it did it so smoothly. More than four years into their latest violent conflict with Israel, Palestinians drew together behind Arafat’s longtime No. 2, Abbas, who turns 70 this month, as one of the few national figures remaining — one with the credentials to span the divided populations of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the diaspora. In an election Jan. 9, he won more than 60 percent of the vote. That he did so well was evidence to Palestinians of their national unity; that he did not do better was evidence to them of the strength of their democratic institutions. Hassan Khreisheh, an opposition member of the Palestinian Parliament, tied these themes together when he proudly declared at the swearing-in of Abbas, ”Our people have put an end to the 99.999 percent that Arab leaders have become accustomed to.” Palestinians were now exceptional, he was saying, because they had democracy.

More here.