The end for Abbas, if not for peace

The end for Abbas, if not for peace

The prospects for a peace between Israel and the Palestinians reached a new low point on Sunday night when Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas railed against Israel and the U.S. in a two-and-a-half-hour tirade at a meeting in Ramallah. He denied any Jewish claim to the land of Israel and blamed the lack of peace on the Netanyahu and Trump governments.

“Today is the day the Oslo Accords end. Israel killed them,” the angry leader said in his fiery rant. “Now we are an authority without any authority, and an occupation without land, and we will not accept this.”

Addressing President Donald Trump, who has threatened to cut off aid to the PA, Abbas said: “Damn your money!” He mocked the president’s emphasis on making a peace deal, rejected the U.S role as Mideast mediator, and singled out U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley as “a disgrace to any administration who respects itself.”

Abbas, who just began his 14th year in the post he was elected to for a four-year term in 2005, called on the Palestinian National Council to review its agreements with Israel. But he stopped short of calling for an end to the Palestinian Authority or embracing the one-state solution that some Palestinians say should be their next approach. 

Israelis across the political spectrum condemned the speech, as did a wide range of American-Jewish groups. The Israel Policy Forum (IPF), a dovish group promoting a two-state solution, expressed “disgust” over Abbas’s “hateful words,” noting his “delegitimizing Zionism, denying the Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and peddling conspiracy theories about the plight of European Jewry.”

Abbas said Zionism was “a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness,” and that Theodor Herzl’s goal was to “wipe out Palestinians from Palestine.”

The IPF statement said: “It is impossible to view Abbas as a viable negotiating partner when he continues to deny the right of the Jewish people to their own national movement and when he continues to insist that the basic recognition of a Jewish homeland is the original sin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The IPF still held out hope of Abbas being “a credible partner in the quest for peace” but described him as “part of the problem,” providing “ammunition to those who insist that the sole obstacle to peace is Palestinian denial of Israel’s legitimacy.”

Given that Israel’s government today is less and less inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians and feeling increasingly confident of support in the White House, the Abbas bombast only solidifies Jerusalem’s view that Israel has no credible peace partner. And who would refute that today?

Though Abbas is a Holocaust denier, the mainstream press has long described him as a moderate, at least compared to Yasir Arafat. But he has proven to be just as politically and diplomatically inflexible as his predecessor. He has resisted compromise, held off calls for free elections, and failed to groom a successor. At 82 and in failing health, his hold on the PA leadership is tenuous. Whether viable Palestinian leaders who seek peace are on the horizon is difficult to know, but the alternative is dark, indeed.

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