17 July '16..
The naming of Boris Johnson as Britain's Foreign Minister set off in his home country a storm of name-calling and hand-wringing that approximates the Democrat reaction to Donald Trump. Without wading into British politics, there is one specific incident that the Daily Mail called an impolitic "gaffe" that should be assessed at greater length -- and from a different angle:
Last November local [Palestinian] officials called off a visit to Palestine on safety grounds after the then-London mayor told an audience in Tel Aviv that a trade boycott of Israeli goods was "completely crazy" and supported by "corduroy- jacketed, snaggletoothed, lefty academics in the UK."
Palestinian officials accused him of adopting a "misinformed and disrespectful" pro-Israel stance and said he risked creating protests if he visited the West Bank.
Johnson was right on the merits: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is largely a function of university campuses and has little to do with Israel-UK trade, which is robust and growing. But the incident should be understood as a window into Palestinian strategy, and as such should not be overlooked.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas did not use the opportunity presented by Mr. Johnson's visit to offer his view, to explain why Johnson was wrong, to promote UK-Palestinian trade, or even to argue for BDS. He reflexively threatened a prominent European guest with violence. It surely would have erupted on schedule if Johnson had continued his visit. The Palestinians are no longer interested in discussing their interests/demands/wishes. They have entered a period of ultimatum: one-hundred percent or nothing; my way or violence even with their friends.
It was in the atmosphere of "no criticism/no negotiation" that Abbas went to a European Parliament meeting in Brussels in June, following an inconclusive French-sponsored "peace process" meeting that included neither Israelis nor Palestinians -- a mechanism Abbas assumed would result in French demands on Israel. It did not -- putting Abbas in a foul mood for the European Parliament meeting that was prelude to the release of the Middle East Quartet report on prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Again, Abbas expected to hear only criticism of Israel.
Then, European Parliament President Martin Shulz tried to arrange a meeting between Abbas and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin agreed, Abbas declined -- and it was later revealed that Abbas even changed hotels when he discovered he and Rivlin were sharing a roof. It was in Brussels where Abbas claimed that some Israeli rabbis were calling for Israel to poison Palestinian water -- an echo of Suha Arafat's claim in 1999 that Israelis were poisoning Palestinian air and water. Abbas received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks; Suha received a kiss from then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.
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