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Israel and Palestine

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Myths and Facts About Mahmoud Abbas

November 22nd 2010

Contributors / Staff - Mitchell Bard

Myth: “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate interested in compromise.”

Fact: The definition of “moderate” is relative. Compared to Hamas, Hizbullah and Ahmadinejad, for example, Abbas can be viewed as a moderate since he explicitly negotiates with Israel. Abbas, however, has expressed no true willingness to compromise on any substantive issue, balks at true peace efforts and vehemently spews anti-Israel rhetoric that has significantly hampered the peace process in the past.

In November 2010, Abbas spoke at the sixth annual memorial service for Yasser Arafat and definitively announced that he will continue to tow the hard line agenda of his mentor and predecessor. Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in 2004, is considered one of the fathers of Palestinian terrorism. Abbas is holding to Arafat’s policies of declaring Jerusalem the capital of Palestine; requiring Israeli withdrawal from all settlements; demanding the full right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants; and refusing to acknowledge the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Abbas also publicly glorifies Palestinian martyrs and allows Holocaust denial to spread in official Palestinian sources.

On the issue of Jerusalem, Abbas maintains that the city will be the capital of a future Palestinian state. “At the Camp David summit, the Palestinian leadership rejected an Israeli proposal to share sovereignty,” he said in 2005, “We continue to reject this offer. We cannot compromise on Jerusalem.” In an interview with the Washington Post in 2007, Abbas declared, “I have always said that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory. We have to restore it.” Again in 2010, he said that “the Arab city of Jerusalem, including its holy sites, is an integral part” of the future Palestinian state.

On the subject of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, Abbas insisted that “The withdrawal from Gaza must only be part of other withdrawals … Israel must pull out of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967. He reiterated again in a letter to Presidents Obama and Medvedev in 2010 that “the shortest way to peace is ending the Israeli occupation of all territory … including Jerusalem, occupied Syrian Arab Golan Heights, and the remaining Lebanese territories.” Abbas refuses to acknowledge Israeli security concerns that would stem from a complete withdrawl and made it clear that he will not accept land-swap deals to allay those fears.

With regards to the Palestinian refugees' “right of return”, Abbas has been staunch in his view that he will not compromise. According to Abbas, there are 4.7 million Palestinians refugees to whom the right of return must be conferred. “We will never forget the rights of the refugees,” Abbas said, “They will eventually gain their rights, and the day will come when the refugees return home.”

Though Abbas negotiates with Israel, he rejects its raison d’etre as a Jewish state. Speaking to the Palestinian youth parliament in 2009, Abbas declared his refusal to recognize Israel’s Jewish character saying, “Call yourselves what you want, but I will not accept it … The ‘Jewish State’ … I will not accept it.” Abbas backed that statement again in September 2010, when he told members of the Hadash party it was an “unacceptable demand” that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Abbas is also supposed to have forsworn terror, but in February 2008, he told the Jordanian paper al-Dustur that he did not rule out returning to the path of armed “resistance” against Israel. In fact, his reason for not currently engaging in “armed struggle” is not because he has disavowed terror, but simply because he doesn’t believe the Palestinians can achieve their objectives without a coalition. As he told the Arab League in July 2010, “If you want war, and will fight Israel [with us], we are in favor.” Additionally, Abbas was one of the founders of the Fatah terrorist group and, in February 2008, he proudly claimed credit for initiating the terror campaign against Israel. “I had the honor of firing the first shot in 1965 and of being the one who taught resistance,” Abbas said. The PA president even takes credit for training Hizbullah: “We had the honor of leading the resistance and we taught resistance to everyone, including Hizbullah.” The daily newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, Al Hayat Al Jadida, whose budget is supplied by Abbas, has praised, honored, and even eulogized “martyred” terrorists. The paper, for example, praised the Palestinian who murdered eight youths in a Jerusalem school in 2008, referring to him as having achieved Islamic martyrdom. In 2010, Abbas eulogized the mastermind behind the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered as “a leading figure in resistance and sincere work” who “sacrificed for his people’s just causes.”

Like Ahmadinejad, Abbas also allows Holocaust denial to spread under his watch. The official PA media outlet airs programs where Palestinian academics teach that Auschwitz and Dachau “never existed” and the Palestinian Ministry of Education produces schoolbooks which teach the history of World War II yet completely ignores the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews.

On the issues, Abbas is no moderate. Israel has no illusions about Abbas, and, from the time he took over for Arafat, has expressed skepticism that any agreements could be reached with a man who has shown neither the will nor the ability to carry out any of his promises. Nevertheless, Israeli leaders understand he is the only interlocutor they presently have and are willing to pursue negotiations in the hope that Abbas will eventually moderate his views and compromise on the issues required to reach an agreement.

Cutting Edge commentator Mitchell Bard is the Director of AICE and the Jewish Virtual Library. His latest books are The Arab Lobby; Will Israel Survive?; and 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction, Dawn of the Holocaust.


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