Abbas’ No-State Solution

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Palestinian National Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 30, 2018. (Flash90)

JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIAL

Anyone who favors the sensible but elusive two-state solution in the Middle East couldn’t help but be disappointed by recent comments by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But they should not be surprised, either. 

In a speech to the Palestinian National Council last week in Ramallah, Abbas resorted to a list of anti-Semitic, hate-filled canards that show he has no intention to discuss a peaceful future with Israel, if he ever did. 

Among other untruths, Abbas said that Jews were massacred in Europe for centuries “not because of their religion, but rather their social role related to usury and banks.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, Abbas also said that “Israel is ‘a colonial project’ with no relationship to Judaism” and that “Nazi Germany made efforts to help to create Israel and cultivate a supportive population there.”

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Not surprisingly, the diatribe was strongly and rightfully condemned. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said on Twitter that the Abbas speech had sunk to a new low. 

“To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don’t have peace,” he added, “think again.”

Jason Greenblatt, the American special envoy to the Mideast peace effort, also tweeted that the Abbas remarks “must be unconditionally condemned by all. They are very unfortunate, very distressing & terribly disheartening. Peace cannot be built on this kind of foundation.”

And The New York Times, which has often been criticized for its coverage of the peace process and of violence along the Gaza-Israel border, weighed in with its own denunciation in an editorial headlined “Let Abbas’ Vile Words Be His Last as Palestinian Leader.”  

“No doubt he feels embittered and besieged on all sides,” the Times said of Abbas. But by succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts, he showed that it is time for him to leave office.

“Palestinians need a leader with energy, integrity and vision, one who might have a better chance of achieving Palestinian independence and enabling both peoples to live in peace.”

The sad Abbas saga has deep roots. It is widely known that his doctoral thesis at Moscow University is a classic example of Holocaust denial and minimization. In contrast to the scowling Yasser Arafat, Abbas, 82,  hides behind his benign-looking white hair and mustache and half-hearted “denunciations” of terrorist violence.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the words and deeds of Israeli and Palestinian leaders as Israel and its supporters celebrate the 70th anniversary of the miraculous rebirth of a sovereign state in the biblical homeland of the Jewish people.

When David Ben-Gurion read out Israel’s Proclamation of Independence on May 14, 1948, he emphasized that Israel appealed “to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.” 

In its years of independence, Israel has achieved tremendous heights in science, education, culture and a robust economy. Israel has survived and prevailed in many wars over seven decades. It has formal peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and has gained de facto allies in other Arab states.

Compared with that legacy, Abbas’ leadership is a sorry one indeed, and he may have realized that this time, he overplayed his weak hand. In the wake of the negative reaction to his speech, Abbas tried to make amends. He issued an apology for the remarks, calling the Holocaust the “most heinous crime in history.”

“If people were offended by my statement … especially people of the Jewish faith, I apologize to them,” Abbas said.

“I would like to assure everyone that it was not my intention to do so, and to reiterate my full respect for the Jewish faith, as well as other monotheistic faiths.” 

But his attempt at reconciliation met with little success, and rightly so, with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeting that Abbas is “a wretched Holocaust denier.” 

For any hope of a two-state solution and lasting peace to move forward, Abbas and his inflammatory rhetoric have to go, and the sooner the better.