Mahmoud Abbas, it appears, is a man of unity after all. We’re not referring to his outreach to Hamas — rather, the knack he has in uniting Israel’s Right and Left. In a misguided and self-defeating speech last Friday at the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas accused Israel of carrying out “genocide” during the summer’s war in Gaza.
The outrageousness of the charge infuriated Israelis across the political spectrum. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Palestinian Authority president’s speech demonstrated that “he doesn’t want to be, and cannot be, a partner for a logical diplomatic resolution.”
On the Left, Larry Derfner of the webzine +972 called Abbas’s genocide remark “politically suicidal, precisely because it’s so clearly false…. It stamps the anti-occupation cause with fanaticism, with reckless disregard for the truth, with hysterical hatred for Israel.” And according to David Horovitz of the centrist Times of Israel, “It underlined what his years of failed leadership had long since confirmed — that he lacks the will or the guts to challenge and change the poisoned mindset of his people.”
The shame is that the international community is as eager for a Palestinian peace partner as Israel, in the name of creating two secure, independent states and countering the extremism represented by Hamas. On Monday, the New Jersey State Assembly approved a bipartisan resolution calling for increased U.S. aid to Israel and urging the permanent demilitarization of Hamas. “In withdrawing from both Gaza and Lebanon, embracing treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and working with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Israel consistently has extended an olive branch in the Gaza conflict,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Dist. 15). Abbas has had many opportunities to accept that branch, but continues to play to his most rejectionist wing.
The Palestinians’ fate remains at the mercy of leaders who prefer lies and violent rhetoric to the kinds of words and deeds that will convince Israel that they are seeking peace.