Abbas’ insolence; American silence

Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, February 21, 2014.

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Secretary Kerry has had nothing to say about Palestinian political culture that remains violent, anti-democratic, and wedded to historical lies. And so you know that no failure of the peace process will ever be pinned on the recalcitrant and defiant Palestinian Authority. 


The world judges Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his government by truly meek standards. How else can you explain the rot with which the Palestinians get away with, while supposedly engaged in a peace process with Israel?

Abbas’ minions can savage US Secretary of State John Kerry, cast ugly aspersions on his motivations, organize demonstrations against him, brutally mock his proposals, intransigently reject any moves towards Israel, threaten renewed warfare against Israel, cozy-up to Iranian officials in preparation for such future battle, and glorify terrorism against Israel – yet the Obama administration and European leaders remain mum.

The State Department doesn’t get offended when Yasser Abed Rabbo, the PLO’s Secretary-General and one of the closest advisors to Abbas, accuses Kerry of seeking to “appease Israel.” No apologies were demanded by the State Department when Jamal Muhaissen, a senior Fatah official, called for Kerry to be indicted in the International Criminal Court (for supposedly spelling-out to Abbas, in private of course, the implications of diplomatic failure).

The State Department doesn’t loudly denounce as unacceptable the protests in Ramallah and Bethlehem where Palestinians cry “Oh Kerry, you coward, you have no room in Palestine,” and carry placards accusing Kerry of working toward “liquidating” the Palestinian cause and trying to extort the Palestinians.

Nor does it seem to bother Kerry’s State Department when senior representatives of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, such as Jibril Rajoub and Tawfik Tirawi, both former commanders of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and close allies of Abbas, issue a string of increasingly strident statements in support of “armed resistance” against Israel. Or when they fly to Iran to seek the support of Ayatollahs Khatamei and Rouhani.

In fact, the State Department has had nothing to say at all about a series of recent stories that detail a Palestinian political culture that remains violent, anti-democratic, and wedded to historical lies.

The stories and statements ignored by Washington include Mahmoud Abbas’ venal assertion that Jesus was a Palestinian persecuted by the Zionists. They include chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat’s accusation that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants Abbas assassinated, and Erekat’s outrageous claim to be an indigenous descendant of the biblical Canaanites. (Erekat excreted that “Joshua Bin Nun burned my hometown Jericho”). They include Abbas’ classic double-talk: Swearing commitment to peace when speaking to Israeli students, while glorifying the murder of Israeli students by Palestinian terrorists, when speaking in Arabic to his home base.

More American silence has resounded in response to a well-documented new report detailing the hate that is routinely broadcast on Palestinian television, published in Palestinian newspapers, and taught in PA schools – demonizing Jews and inculcating the notion that the evil Jews and Zionists have no rights to any part of the country.

Next is complete American disregard of new reports that detail gross human rights abuses in the PA – including arbitrary detentions, torture and cruel punishment, restriction of freedom of the press, denial of religious and minority rights, and more.

Utter disregard has been the reaction of the international community to the PA’s large cash payouts to terrorists released from Israeli jails as part of John Kerry’s peace process. The terrorists are getting PA grants of up to $50,000 each and monthly stipends ranging from one to four thousand dollars; sums that are about four times the average monthly salary in the PA.

The PA also makes large monthly payments to Palestinians and Israeli Arabs still in jail, as long as they were imprisoned for terrorism against Israel. This included prisoners serving multiple life sentences for murder. Their families receive the stipends. Arabs from Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs imprisoned for terror offenses get additional supplements, in honor of their “exceptional heroism.”

In short, the more heinous the act of terrorism and the longer the prison sentence, the higher the salary. And note: The PA is an equal opportunity terrorist employer. Its salaries for terrorists are granted to members of Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad alike.

It is estimated that at least six percent of the Palestinian budget is diverted to directly paying terrorist salaries. All this money comes from donor countries like the US, UK, Norway, and Denmark. I’ve scratched my head again and again wondering why. Shouldn’t abjuring terror, refraining from glorifying terror, and stopping to pay for terror, be a central international demand of the Palestinians in the current peace talks?

Over the past two years, the GSS has identified and preempted more than 80 plans for attacks in the West Bank, plans that originated with individuals released by Israel as part of the Shalit deal. Hamas headquarters in Gaza transmits detailed instructions as well as funds for these attacks to the West Bank Palestinian terrorists; and Abbas’ PA has been mainly inactive and ineffective in doing anything about this Hamas infiltration.

Despite all this, Secretary Kerry and his State Department seem religiously wedded to the cheery fiction that a Palestinian state would be a stabilizing force for peace. All evidence to the contrary mysteriously escapes them.

They are tremendously exorcised about the urgency of establishing a Palestinian state, but much less worried about the character of that state and what it portends for that state’s relationship with Israel down the road.

Then there is Abbas’ diplomatic intransigence. By all accounts, Abbas is not prepared to make any significant concessions on the key issues of recognition, refugees, security, settlements and Jerusalem. Abbas says he will “never” recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, “never” forgo the so-called right of return to Israel of Palestinian refugees, “never” accept Israeli security control of Jordan Valley and other key air and ground security assets, “never” allow Jews to live in Judea, and “never” accept Israeli sovereignty in any part of Old Jerusalem. In short, “never” will there be a peace agreement.

Yet I haven’t heard John Kerry publicly strong-arming Abbas, as he has notoriously done with Benjamin Netanyahu. I haven’t heard Kerry warn Abbas of PA diplomatic isolation or economic collapse if progress isn’t made.

In fact, Kerry has failed to even hint that Palestinian intransigence could be a possible cause of failure. Kerry has signaled that failure would be/could be Israel’s fault, but not the PA’s fault.

The American ear also seems deaf to the broader context in which the current talks are taking place. Benjamin Netanyahu is under great pressure from within his own coalition government and beyond to make enormous concessions to the Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas is under no such domestic or regional pressure at all. In fact, nobody in the Fatah leadership (never mind Hamas or the Saudis) is pushing Abbas to cut Kerry some slack or show some flexibility in order to obtain a peace deal with Israel.

After all, the Palestinians feel no urgent need for an agreement. They don’t really crave the “state-let” along the 1967 lines that Israel might be offering, and they think that have a better route (through the international courts and international boycotts) to cut Israel down to size.

So why on earth is Kerry publicly pressuring Netanyahu but not Abbas? As we painfully know only too well, every Israeli official who speaks out of line with regard to the terrific Kerry process is pummeled by the Obama administration. Any Israeli statement that questions the wisdom or direction of the diplomatic process led by Secretary Kerry becomes an international scandal; and Washington responds to the wayward official with fury.

Just ask Defense Minister Yaalon or Economy Minister Bennett. For doubting Kerry’s effort, the Obama administration has gone after them like a hotly-provoked bull in a bullfight. Their criticisms of Kerry have been called offensive and unacceptable by Washington, and apologies have been loudly demanded.

Yet Abbas and his insolent, defiant Palestinian Authority apparently are international angels. The toughest criticism Abbas ever has faced from the US is “disappointment and concern” over anti-Israel rhetoric. This gentle comment came on Wednesday in a background briefing, noticed by few, of the State Department deputy spokesman. “Personal attacks are unhelpful,” murmured the tender spokesman almost apologetically. Kerry himself has said nothing critical of Abbas.

And so you know for sure: No matter what happens, no matter how recalcitrant and contemptuous Abbas is, no matter how militant and hard-line the PA proves – no failure of the peace process will ever be pinned on the Palestinians.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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