What If Proponents of the Peace Process Had Pressured Mahmoud Abbas When It Mattered?

To anyone who has followed Mahmoud Abbas’s career with any care, his recent rantings about Zionist colonialism and Jewish responsibility for the Holocaust will have come as no surprise. What was surprising, however, was the reaction: the New York Times called for him to step down; the Jewish pro-Palestinian group J Street condemned his words in no uncertain terms; and the UN Security Council came close to issuing a rebuke of its own. Abbas responded to this unexpected uproar with an apology, albeit a mealy-mouthed one. Liel Leibovitz, commenting on the incident, devises a “thought experiment”:

If Abbas is obviously and easily pressured by the disapproval of those institutions he sees as his natural allies—the press, progressive Jews, and that super gang of friends in the Security Council—what do you suppose might’ve happened if said institutions . . . bothered to express a touch of discontent a bit earlier? . . .

Imagine, for example, that the same liberal-minded cats had raised a righteous racket in September of 2015, when Abbas, waxing poetic, said that the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher—both in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital—are exclusively the property of the Palestinians, warned Jews not to desecrate these holy sites “with their filthy feet,” and promised his listeners that “every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every shahid [martyr] will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God.” Imagine a Times editorial huffing that religious intolerance coupled with clear and direct incitement to violence is reprehensible. Imagine the United Nations calling a meeting to consider a rebuke. Instead, Abbas’s delegates were allowed to fly their flag on Second Avenue a few days later, and the Times editorial board remained silent. Similar anecdotes abound. . . .

Those of us who’ve been reporting on the Palestinian president’s inexcusable bigotry for a while now have abandoned all hope that our deep-seated concerns will be shared by anyone in any position of prominence in the press, the UN, or other bastions of influence favored by progressives. Which is why the current consternation in the Times and elsewhere feels a little bit like a sad joke. Watching Abbas apologize so quickly makes one wonder what might’ve happened had the self-proclaimed champions of peace and human rights bothered to speak up against the petty tyrant from Ramallah much sooner.

Abbas’s vile words last week were hardly his first or his vilest, and the time for him to step down as Palestinian leader was long ago. An unbiased press, an international community committed to real reconciliation, a Jewish left less furiously hateful of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and more mistrustful of a long-time, unreconstructed Holocaust denier and champion of violence and terrorism might’ve done a lot of good for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, J Street, Mahmoud Abbas, Mainstream Media, New York Times, United Nations

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank