Abbas’s Waterloo

Published in The Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2019.

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He has cornered himself into a situation where he has zero credibility and zero leverage on Israel, the US, the international community, and even the Sunni Arab world. He and the so-called Palestinian “Authority” in the West Bank are obstructionist and kleptocratic in every way.

Cartoon by Shlomo Cohen/Israel Hayom 19.08.18

Mahmoud Abbas reminded us once again this week why he needs to be shellacked for sake of peace in the region. Because he and the so-called Palestinian “Authority” in the West Bank are obstructionist and kleptocratic in every way.

According to Jordanian diplomatic and Arab media reports, the Saudis have pressed Abbas to embrace US President Donald Trump’s coming peace plan in exchange for massive Saudi political and financial support. But Abbas has rejected the offer, sobbing that it would “mean the end of my political life.” So much for Abbas’ mettle and vision.

In the meantime, Abbas is reverting to an old game of his, which is threatening to “collapse” the PA in order to extort more money from Israel and the international community, especially from easily-fleece-able European countries.

Of course, the current PA “financial crisis” is entirely self-induced, a function of the fact that Abbas insists on his “pay for slay” policy (– meaning the funding of terrorists and their families on a pay scale which rewards the most heinous acts of terrorism).

But neither Israel nor the US is willing to pay/play along anymore, and so each has cut funding to the PA commensurate to the blood-bomb bonuses. If Abbas is now petulantly refusing to accept any truncated amount of funds from Israel and the US, well then, too bad.

The absurd thing is that, while Abbas is cocking his crooked gun, Israel is acting to improve Palestinian quality-of-life in the West Bank and even Hamas-controlled Gaza. At a meeting on Tuesday in Brussels of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, Israeli representatives begged donor countries to fund more humanitarian projects for the Palestinians, including a flagship project – a large sewage treatment plant in the Gaza Strip.

In any case, Abbas’s threats to dissolve the PA are simply not credible. “There is no precedent in business or international affairs for just walking away from a $3 billion enterprise,” asserts Palestinian expert Prof. Hillel Frisch of the BESA Center. “More than 200,000 Palestinian families in the West Bank – that is one million people – are dependent on PA salaries and pension plans, paid by the international community and essentially buttressed by Israeli bayonets.”

And thus, no matter how street-unpopular Abbas is, and no matter how frustrated Palestinian elites may be – there is no Palestinian interest in seeing the whole quasi-state structure collapse.

In fact, Abbas is working harder-than-ever to maintain the mammoth – by crushing his political and business foes in the West Bank and wedging his cronies (and sons) into leadership positions, while keeping his thumb on the whole Mafioso enterprise from above. His repeated threats to resign are boring.

Clearly, Abbas’s renewed attempts to intimidate are driven by his marginalization, with the Trump administration bypassing the PA in regional diplomacy. This marginalization is in turn driven by Abbas’ self-inflicted wounds; sourced in the fecklessness and radicalization of Abbas and his aging coterie.

Remember: Abbas has fled from real negotiation and compromise with Israel at every opportunity over the past 15 years. He has espoused maximalist positions, stoked hatred of Israelis and Jews, inculcated a culture that denies Jewish history and national identity, venerated terrorists, and pushed the criminalization of Israel internationally. He has driven most Israelis to the realization, alas, that there is no reasonable peace deal with the Palestinians to be had at this time.

Abbas walked away from Prime Minister Olmert’s outrageously generous territorial offer in 2008; refused peace talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu even after Israel froze settlement construction in 2009; and left US Secretary of State Kerry out in the cold when the latter tried to negotiate peace in 2014.

At the UN, he has called Israel a “brutal,” “aggressive,” “racist,” “apartheid,” “horrific” and “colonial” country, and accused it of numerous crimes like ethnic cleansing and genocide. He has repeatedly called on the international community to unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood and to “compel” Israeli withdrawals – without the Palestinians having to compromise at all with Israel.

In recent years, Abbas has sworn that 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” allow Jews to live in Judea, “never” accept Israeli sovereignty in any part of Old Jerusalem, and “never” accept Israeli control of Jordan Valley and other key security assets.

Since 2015, Abbas has added to this fanatical portfolio a campaign of wholesale denial of Jewish national rights in the Holy Land. He has proposed repeated UNESCO and other international resolutions that explicitly dismiss Jewish history in Jerusalem and Zion.

And he continues to rant dangerously about non-existent Israeli “aggression and provocations against the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and Christian sanctuaries in Jerusalem” – which constitutes clear incitement to Palestinian violence against Israel.

So, it’s no wonder that the emerging American peace initiative seeks to bypass Abbas and his PLO rejectionists. Perhaps the plan can initiate a long process in which Palestinians act to replace their past-sell-date rulers – effectively, dictators focused on their own survival in power – with more reasonable leaders.

This is Abbas’s Waterloo; his decisive defeat. He has cornered himself into a situation where he has zero credibility and zero leverage on Israel, the US, the international community, and even the Sunni Arab world.

Abbas clings to rhetoric of resistance and rituals of Israel-bashing, while suckling at the teats of international aid gouged via banal brinkmanship. He and his Fatah Party have become irrelevant; saboteurs, not partners for peace.

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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