The Palestinian leadership does not educate their people for peace with Israel. That is the real obstacle to peace and the reason Abbas is in so much trouble.
By: Khaled Abu Toameh, The Gatestone Institute
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is reaping what he has sown. He is facing a firestorm calling for his resignation or overthrow.
The Palestinians are not up in arms about Abbas’s 11th year of a four-year term in office. They really do not seem to care about that, especially as long as he is paying salaries.
Most Palestinians are not objecting to his dictatorial rule or staunch refusal to bring democracy and public freedoms to the Palestinians. Nor is he under attack for failing to implement reforms in the Palestinian Authority, or to combat financial and administrative corruption.
No, the trouble stems from a different corner entirely. Abbas has used the dirtiest words: Peace with Israel.
Let us put things into perspective. This is the same Abbas who over the past six months has remained silent in the face of the new “knife intifada”; the same Abbas who whips his people into a frenzy by telling them that Jews are “defiling the Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet,” and the same Abbas whose media and officials glorify Palestinians who murder Israelis.
The whole problem exploded when Abbas told Israel’s Channel 2 TV station that his security forces in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] have been entering schools and searching students’ bags for knives. “In one school, we found 70 students with knives, and we told them that this was wrong,” Abbas said. “I told them I do not want to kill someone or die; I want you to live, and for others to live too.” He went on to say that he wants peace with Israel and is ready to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Abbas, of course, was speaking to the Israeli public, and not to his own people. He has always sent a conciliatory message to Israelis- leaving the truth with blood on it for his Arabic-speaking audiences.
A few days earlier, Abbas seemed to have committed another “crime” when he told Druze leaders who visited him in his office in Ramallah that his hand would continue to be extended for peace with Israel. He even went as far as declaring that that he “rejected violence and terrorism.”
In yet a further “provocative” move on the part of Abbas, he received in his office a delegation representing the World Federation of Moroccan Jews. At the meeting, Abbas once again discussed his desire for peace, saying he was seeking to “end hostility and bloodshed between us.”
By granting an interview to an Israeli TV station, Abbas was defying instructions from his loyalists in the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. In February, the syndicate decided to boycott any Palestinian official who gives an interview to Israeli reporters or media organizations.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, which is dominated by members of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, did not publicly condemn the interview with the Israeli TV station. They have better judgment than that. Privately, however, Palestinian journalists and political activists in Ramallah expressed outrage over their president’s “collaboration” with Israeli media in defiance of the ban.
The meeting with the Moroccan Jews also infuriated some Palestinians, who rushed to accuse Abbas of acting against the instructions of the “anti-normalization” movement in the Palestinian territories. This movement has long worked to foil meetings between Israelis and Palestinians; its supporters have not hesitated to use violence to stop such encounters from taking place. Even soccer matches between Israeli and Palestinian children are considered unacceptable by this extremist movement, which, ironically, also consists of Abbas loyalists.
Yet what really caused the outcry was the talk of peace. Without it, the interview and the meeting with the Moroccans might have been quietly condemned. Apparently, discussing searching schoolchildren’s bags for knives was considered “over the top.”
Verbal attacks against Abbas are not only coming from his political enemies, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Some are coming from his own supporters in Fatah and the PLO.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the second largest faction of the PLO after Fatah, has called for Abbas’s immediate resignation.
Accusing him of having “crossed all red lines,” the PFLP said that Abbas’s remarks to the “enemy’s TV station” prove that the Palestinian Authority continues to conduct security coordination with Israel.
The PFLP, which denounced Abbas’s remarks as “despicable,” said that if Abbas does not step down, then the PLO leadership should hold a meeting to remove him from power and hold him accountable for his statements and actions.
Palestinians also took to social media to denounce their president for his remarks, with some joking that it could have been because of April Fool’s Day. Abbas was mocked as a liar and a hypocrite.
‘Hostage to his own anti-Israel poison’
Abbas has only himself to blame for this morass. In the last months, he and the PA leadership have been inciting their people against Israel through the media and public rhetoric. Forget what they say in English: in Arabic, many of the Palestinian leaders talk of death to the Israelis.
Like other Palestinian leaders, Abbas has become hostage to his own anti-Israel poison. He has now had some feedback from his people on how well he has taught them. The answer: Very well indeed.
Perhaps this time, the international community will hear the truth: the Palestinian leadership does not educate the Palestinian people for peace with Israel. That is the real obstacle to peace.
The author, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.