Beautiful stories always feature a protagonist with immense problems that need to be overcome on his way to a happy ending. If they happen to be real stories and not fictional ones -- our happiness with the ending soars even more.
Such is the story of the 23-year-old Muhammad Assaf, who won the "Arab Idol" contest last night, despite all the obstacles.
Assaf, the star who was born last night, was originally born to Palestinian parents in Libya and grew up in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp. His story since childhood is far from being an easy one, and it didn't get easier when he grew up. Even after being recognized as a talented and popular wedding singer in Gaza, he almost didn't get to compete. On his way to the contest, he had to plead with Hamas to let him leave Gaza, then bribe Egyptian border guards to let him enter the country. Some say he used his immense charm when denied crossing the border -- and just like Tom Cruise on Oprah Winfrey's couch -- jumped on the fence and sang his way right into the guards' hearts, until they finally let him through. I guess that's Middle-Eastern Hollywood for you.
Hamas at first was extrememly critical of the "Arab Idol" fever sweeping Gaza, with a spokesman saying last month that the name and idea of the show are blasphemous. However, realizing where public opinion was going fast, this past week Hamas suddenly praised Assaf as the "ambassador for Palestinian art." What made them make the switch and say that?
Perhaps it was the fact that their rival from PLO, Abbas, started collecting public opinion points because he quickly recognized the great potential in this young artist, Assaf, who has already acquired the nickname "the Palestinian Tom Cruise." He praised him publicly and cut the cost of text messages in the PA by half on the night of the competition, to encourage more people to vote.
Formally, Assaf is a Gazan, but Abbas probably figured that he'll be more tempted to live under an easier regime in the West Bank, than return to Gaza's dark, extreme Muslim Sharia regime and become Hamas' toy. So as it happens, he made big efforts in the media in order to win over this talented boy.
It's a shame Abbas didn't put up such a fight on another issue he was at odds on with Hamas -- his new PM, Hamdallah, who quit a few days ago after a measely two weeks in office. On this issue he chose to cave and accepted the resignation.
Abbas' true problems are inside his own camp, torn and partially taken advantage of by extremists and terrorists. He knows Hamas will call him a traitor anf try to ruin him if he ever makes any compromises needed in order to reach an agreement with Israel, although that's something he'll never be able to admit out loud.
In the past weekend, the Washington Post ran interviews with the three new leaders in the Israeli government -- Netanyahu, Lapid and Bennet. Lapid said he was strongly supportive of the two-state solution and would do what was needed in order to promote this during his term, Netanyahu reached to Abbas and said that negotiations should start immediately, and even Bennet, the far-right-winger, said he would not go against any negotiations with the Palestinians, because it's clear that's what this government is planning to strive for.
Once again, the ball has clearly landed on Abbas' court, and it's his decision whether to take advantage of the opportunity, or find yet another good excuse for saying "no." How much of a fight will he be willing to put up against the wishes of Hamas on issues of a bit more importance that the Arab Idol? I guess we'll all soon know.