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

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war