07 April '16..
To anyone who read Bernie Sanders’ comments about Israel in his Daily News interview last week, heard the candidate’s Middle East policy speech (that he chose not to deliver at the AIPAC conference), or President Obama’s numerous evaluations of the current situation, there’s no mystery about the blame for the lack of peace in the region. They both put the onus on Israel for failing to better relations with the Palestinians and specifically think that the existence of settlements in the West Bank, as well as Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that they also call settlements, is the primary obstacle to peace. That point of view received a kind of validation last week when Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas called for new peace talks with Israel.
Speaking on Israel’s Channel 2, Abbas claimed, “I want to see peace in my life” and called upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with him “at any time.” The implication of the statement was that the Palestinians have been and continue to be willing to talk peace but that it has been the Israelis who have refused to engage with them or make any offers that would allow them the statehood and independence they desire. The interview fit in nicely with the image that Israel’s critics have nurtured about its “hardline” government.
Nor did those who take Abbas at face value understand the Israeli government reaction to Abbas’s attempt at outreach. Speaking with more amusement than eagerness, Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted that he had cleared his schedule on Monday and was waiting for Abbas. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted similarly, declaring that it was time for the Palestinians to make good on Abbas’ offer and to come and talk. The PA’s response was telling. “Negotiate what?” replied PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. He went on to say that if the Israelis really wanted to talk they needed to concede in advance about settlements, agree to withdraw to the June 1967 lines, and release all imprisoned Palestinian terrorists.
In other words, Abbas wasn’t really serious about talking with Netanyahu. Moreover, just to make clear exactly what was going on, Palestine Media Watch issued a translation of a March 11 speech by Abbas broadcast on PA television broadcast to Palestinians. In contrast to the moderate champion of peace heard on Israeli TV, this Abbas had something very different to say. Instead of talking about mutual coexistence, Abbas said that the Palestinian people have “been under occupation for 67 or 68 years.”
For those who need help with their math, that means he’s talking about 1948 or 1949 when the modern state of Israel was born. In other words, according to Abbas, all of Israel inside the 1967 lines as well as the West Bank and Jerusalem is under “occupation.” This is significant not just because it contradicts his most recent attempt to pose as a moderate. It’s important because it explains everything the Palestinians have done since the Oslo Accords supposedly set the region on a path to peace in 1993.
It illustrates the one most important fact about the current impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. If he thinks of pre-1967 Israel as “occupied” land that illustrates that Abbas’s views are fundamentally similar to those of Hamas. The only difference between them is that sometimes, as he showed this past week, Abbas pretends to want peace whereas Hamas consistently proclaims its desire for Israel’s destruction. That explains why, even when pressured to do so by the U.S., Abbas refuses to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one no matter where its borders are drawn. He has been proclaimed by the Obama administration as the foremost Palestinian moderate, and that is actually true. But all that shows is that even the moderates don’t want peace. Abbas
When Obama and Sanders talk about settlements or Israel’s unwillingness to take risks for peace they are ignoring recent history during which the Jewish state has repeatedly sought compromise. That includes the peace offers of 2000, 2001 and 2008 in which Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert offered the PA under the leadership of first Yasir Arafat and then Abbas, an independent state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem. It also ignores the fact that, in 2005, Ariel Sharon withdrew every Israeli soldier, settler, and settlement from Gaza, after which the area fell under the control of Hamas that set up an independent Palestinian state in all but name from which it launches terror raids and rockets. It also ignores Netanyahu’s willingness to accept a two-state solution in which he, the supposed hardliner, offered a West Bank withdrawal. That happened during the talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry that were torpedoed by Abbas’s decision to sign a unity pact with Hamas and to do an end run around U.S.-sponsored diplomacy by going to the United Nations in order to get independence without first making peace with Israel.
Since then, Abbas has refused to talk with Netanyahu even though periodically he emerges to claim that he wants to do so only to, as was the case this week, to refuse to actually do it when the Israelis said they were ready to negotiate.
But Abbas’s hypocrisy wasn’t limited just to the charade of being willing to engage in peace talks. The PA has been actively involved in inciting the current “stabbing intifada,” in which hundreds of Palestinians have attempted to kill random Jews. Abbas helped bring the trouble by spreading lies about Israel planning to harm the Temple Mount mosques. Since then, he and his official media have continued to pour fuel on the fire by lauding terrorists, including those that kill civilians — even American citizens, as was the case with a U.S. Army veteran killed in Jaffa — as heroes and martyrs. It claims that when Israelis defend themselves against these killers, they are the aggressors and engaging in executions of “innocent” Arabs who just happen to be shot in the act of stabbing Israelis.
So to persuade the West that he is against incitement, he called for the reinstatement of a trilateral commission to stop the practice. But Abbas doesn’t need a commission that would include foreigners to do something about incitement. He can just stop doing it himself, and order his minions to do the same.
Doing so would be a problem because, as surveys of Palestinian opinion have consistently shown, these attitudes are popular. The vast majority of Palestinians agree with Abbas when he calls all of Israel “occupied” because they think Jews have no right to any part of the country and are, therefore, fair game for terror no matter where they live– be in a remote hilltop West Bank settlement or the slightly older settlement of Tel Aviv.
All this is easily understood by anyone that follows the Middle East closely. After all, Abbas, like his predecessor Arafat, has been playing this double game of saying one thing in English to Western and Israeli audiences and another in Arabic to Palestinians for two decades.
So why can’t Obama and Sanders get the message and stop hounding the Israelis to make more concessions in order to create a peace that the Palestinians don’t want? The answer lies in a blame-Israel-first mentality that is impervious to facts as well as recent history. The overwhelming majority of Israelis — including the leading opposition to Netanyahu — that a two-state solution is impossible without a Palestinian peace partner. But Abbas always seems to have a willing audience for his charades among those who prefer myths about Israeli intransigence to the truth about the Palestinians. Until the Europeans and the increasingly hostile to Israel left wing of the Democratic Party wise up to this game, it will continue and Jewish blood will continue to flow in this and future intifadas.
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