Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, November 7, 2014.
How far can Abbas go in opposing real negotiation and compromise, encouraging violence, venerating terrorists, and pushing the criminalization of Israel internationally – while still being considered a paragon of peace by the global community? Abbas spews out extremist vitriol and seeks the criminalization of Israel in international fora, and legitimizes terrorism when speaking to Palestinians. Yet his critics are disregarded, just as Arafat’s critics were dismissed during the Oslo heyday.
For more than a decade, we have been told that Mahmoud Abbas was the most reasonable Palestinian leader Israelis could hope for; that he was Israel’s best partner for peace; that he was the moderate with whom a grand compromise deal could be reached. Israelis wanted to believe this so much.
But then came the Abbas who walked away from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s outrageously generous territorial offer in 2008, and the Abbas who refused peace talks with Prime Minister Binyamin 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 the hints of compromise with Israel on refugees, Jerusalem or borders that were in the leaked documents.
Ever since then, Abbas has become an aggressive and deceitful Palestinian irredentist; the farthest thing from a peace partner. He has used every international forum to spew forth extremist vitriol against Israel and seek the criminalization of Israel. When he speaks to Palestinians, he legitimizes terrorism against Israel and glorifies terrorists. He has cozied-up to Hamas and Iran. And he explicitly rejects compromise on any of the key issues that would have to be the basis of a peace agreement with Israel.
Let’s review Abbas’ appalling UN record.
In his 2011 speech at the United Nations General Assembly, 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 hewed resolutely to maximalist Palestinian goals, including refugee demands, which are the Palestinian recipe for dismantling Israel in the long term. He demanded a state on all of the pre-1967 territories, with only “possible minor and mutually agreed upon land swaps of equal size and value.” (Note the phraseology “possible” and “minor”).
In fall 2012, Abbas sought to turn the established framework for peace upside-down; to get his statehood “declared” by the international community without having to compromise with Israel; to claim the end result of the peace process without having to engage in any process.
He went before the UN General Assembly and called upon international community to “compel the government of Israel to respect the Geneva Conventions” and “impose a solution” on Israel. Abbas then accused Israel of numerous crimes, including ethnic cleansing, terrorism, racism, inciting religious conflict, apartheid, house demolitions, dispossession, imprisoning “soldiers of freedom,” settlement colonization and more.
In 2013, Abbas told the UN General Assembly that Israel is preparing a new “nakba” (catastrophe) for the Palestinians. He demanded that the UN invoke “the full and complete implementation of international law” to penalize Israel’s presence “as an occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory.” And he threatened to indict Israel in the International Criminal Court.
Abbas subsequently swore “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 September of this year, Abbas stood before the UN General Assembly and accused Israel of waging a “war of genocide” in the Gaza Strip. “Israel’s jets and tanks brutally assassinated lives and devastated the homes, schools and dreams of thousands of Palestinian children, women and men and in reality destroying the remaining hopes for peace.”
He asserted that Palestinians faced a future in a “most abhorrent form of apartheid” under Israeli rule. He said that instead of rectifying “the historic injustice” of the 1948 “Nakba” (again, note the reference to 1948, not 1967), Israel had committed “absolute war crimes” and “state terror.” He went on to rant about “racist and armed gangs of settlers who persist with their crimes against the Palestinian people, the land, mosques, churches, properties and olive trees,” and talked about a “culture of racism, incitement and hatred” in Israel.
Even Tzipi Livni was forced to call this a “horrible” speech, and the State Department spokesman admitted that the speech was “unhelpful” and worthy of “concern.”
(Yet note: Barack Obama and John Kerry did not rush to publicly reprimand Abbas, as they have notoriously done repeatedly with Netanyahu over much lesser offenses).
More recently, Abbas has taken to explicitly exhorting and inciting to Palestinian violence against Israel in Jerusalem. “We must prevent the settlers from entering the Noble Sanctuary in any way. This is our Al-Aksa and our church. They have no right to enter and desecrate them. We must confront them and defend our holy sites,” Abbas fulminated on October 17.
Note the dark, incendiary, inciting references to “settlers” who “desecrate” the Temple Mount and must be prevented from entering the area “in any way.”
Taking the cue from Abbas, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry spread flammable lies about Israeli “plans to destroy” the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Its spokesman told the official PA daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that “The Israeli government has been carrying out a plan to Judaize the Al-Aqsa Mosque (i.e., the Temple Mount Plaza), and the rate of escalation and repression against Al-Aqsa is increasing… (Israel is moving towards) dividing it geographically and according to time, destroying it and building what is referred to as ‘the Temple’ in its place… Ongoing calls have been made by the extreme right to enlist a large number of settlers to assault the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to perform their Talmudic rituals in it.”
“Talmudic rituals” is rank and derisive PA parlance for Jewish prayer at the holiest site on earth to the Jewish People.
A direct line runs from such vociferation to the attempted assassination of Yehuda Glick. Abbas’s intemperate rhetoric essentially paved the way towards the attack. It gave a Palestinian Authority presidential imprimatur to the attempts to turn the Temple Mount into the hottest battleground between Israel and the Arab world.
And sure enough, Abbas wrote a November 1 “letter of encouragement and support” to the family of Moataz Hejazi, the Palestinian terrorist who tried to assassinate Glick and who was shot dead while resisting arrest by Israeli troops. Abbas called Hejazi a “shahid” (martyr) and said that “he rose to heaven while defending our people’s rights and holy places.” Abbas described Hejazi’s death as “an abominable crime” carried out by “terror gangs of the Israeli occupation army.” He had nothing condemnatory to say about the terror attack on Glick.
So how far can Abbas go in opposing real negotiation and compromise, encouraging violence, venerating terrorists, and pushing the criminalization of Israel internationally – while still being considered a paragon of peace by the Israeli Left and the Obama administration? What will it take for them to move beyond Abbas and consider other options?
This is an important question because of a critical historical precedent: Israel suffered similarly with Yasser Arafat during the Oslo process. Then too, the Left and the Clinton administration become so attached to the Palestinian leader and the concept of negotiations with him that they ignored his support for terror and his stoking of hatred for Israelis and Jews.
When critics of the Oslo process brought up evidence of Arafat’s actions they were dismissed as enemies of peace. Any attention paid to Arafat’s “flaws” was considered to be a distraction from the need to concentrate on advancing peace negotiations.
The same pathetic process is repeating itself with Abbas. His extremism is ignored; his obstructionism is overlooked; his critics are dangerously disregarded.