To this day, Israelis don’t trust U.S. President Barack H. Obama. Obama lost the confidence of Israel on June 4, 2009, when he delivered his Cairo speech to the Arab world. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas lost the confidence of Israel last Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. It may take decades for Israeli-Palestinian relations to recover.
In his now-infamous Cairo remarks, Obama ascribed legitimacy to Israel by relating only to Jewish persecution in the Holocaust — without mentioning any indigenous, historic Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. He then went on to equate Jewish persecution with the “pain of dislocation” and the “daily humiliations of occupation” suffered by Palestinians — for which, Obama said, the Palestinians deserve a state alongside Israel.
Right then and there, he lost Israelis. At that moment, we knew that Obama simply didn’t understand Israel and that he couldn’t be fully trusted to uphold Israel’s concerns in negotiations with the Arabs.
Abbas has now had a similar “Cairo moment,” and he blew it big time. His U.N. appearance was his last chance to signal that he was prepared to compromise with Israel. But Abbas hewed resolutely to maximalist Palestinian goals, including refugee demands, which are the Palestinian recipe for dismantling Israel in the long term. The ferocious, atrocious, noxious, defamatory and uncompromising speech delivered by Abbas destroyed whatever residual hopes we Israelis had that he and his team could indeed be our partners for peace.
For more than a decade, we have been told that Abbas was the most reasonable Palestinian leader we could hope for, that he was our best partner for peace, that he was the moderate with whom a grand compromise deal could be reached. We wanted to believe this so much.
But then came the Abbas who walked away from Ehud Olmert’s munificently generous territorial offer in 2008, and the Abbas who refused peace talks with Benjamin Netanyahu even after Netanyahu froze settlement construction. Then there was the PaliLeaks opportunity to ready the Palestinian public for compromise with Israel. But Abbas ran away from that gateway, too, vigorously denying any notion of compromise with Israel on refugees, Jerusalem or borders.
Now, we get Abbas the aggressive and deceitful Palestinian irredentist at the U.N. For me and for most Israelis, I’m sure, this is the end of Abbas.
Recall: At the U.N. last week, Abbas called Yasser Arafat a man of peace. He spoke of Israel as a “brutal,” “aggressive,” “racist,” “apartheid,” “horrific” and “colonial” military occupier. He accused Israel of a “multi-pronged policy of ethnic cleansing” and of “targeting Palestinian civilians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling.”
He suggested that Israel’s demand for recognition as a Jewish state would “transform the raging conflict in our inflamed region into a religious conflict and a threat to the future of a million and a half Christian and Muslim Palestinians, citizens of Israel.” He spoke of Christian and Muslim historical connections to the Holy Land — and only theirs. And, most tellingly, he spoke of 63 years of Israeli occupation, implying a threat to the sovereignty of pre-1967 Israel.
Abbas may currently enjoy hero status in his community and the broader Arab world, but he burned whatever bridges he might have yet have been able to build to Israelis. Abbas is finished, and with him, for the short term, so is the peace process.
Of course, the hard-core Israeli Left will find it hard to accept that their favorite Palestinian, “Abu Mazen” as they affectionately call him, is utterly discredited. The blind ideological Left can be expected to rev up a campaign to rehabilitate Abbas in the eyes of Israelis. Watch for a new Zehava Gal-On/Shelly Yachimovich initiative, cooked up by Yossi Beilin and supported by Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, for a “Geneva Accords Mark II” agreement with Abbas.
But Israelis won’t fall for it. Abbas is washed up. Busted. Kaput.
* Originally published in Israel Hayom newspaper on September 27, 2011.