The PA president may not believe in the murderous ideology of Hamas, and he has proved willing to cooperate with Israel in preventing terrorist attacks emanating from the West Bank; but, writes David Keyes, he is no moderate, much less a benign influence, and:
Abbas, if one listens to leaders of the free world, is a moderate, reformer, and ally. He is better than Hamas, after all, isn’t he? Never mind that Abbas said in 2013, “There is no difference between our policies and those of Hamas.” The point is this: being better than a genocidal terrorist organization does not a “moderate” make. Pretending it does demeans the word. It is condescending to Palestinians and insulting to true moderates. . . .
Under Abbas’s rule, the Palestinian Authority has arrested activists for Facebook posts and jailed atheists. Two weeks ago, a twenty-two-year-old student was imprisoned for insulting the head of the Palestinian soccer federation. Torture is rampant and Abbas refuses to hold elections, even though his term expired six years ago. . . .
Next to issues like war and peace, civil society and Internet freedom can seem quaint and unimportant. This is a grave mistake. The free exchange of ideas is the bedrock of public reasoning and social progress. It is also a bulwark against extremism. But how can moderate voices succeed if they are always silenced?
A modest solution is to begin by using the West’s immense political and economic leverage to encourage real democratic reform in the Palestinian Authority. Right now, the United States supplies about 10 percent of the PA’s annual budget of over $4.2 billion, yet reform has been cosmetic at best.