Mahmoud Abbas did not arrive at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday with a pistol on his hip, like his former comrade-in-terror Yassir Arafat did in a speech to the General Assembly in 1974.
No, that’s not the style of Arafat’s successor as leader of the PLO. Abbas eschews the outlaw persona and comports himself like any other member-in-good-standing of the international community.
But that does not mean he came unarmed. Abbas came armed instead with rhetoric. It is the kind of rhetoric that is pleasing to the ears of the member states of the Security Council. Ostensibly, it is the rhetoric of peace, and that is how much of the international community prefers to hear it.
He claimed on Tuesday that he has no quarrel with Jews or Judaism, only “the occupiers of the land.” This sounds like the statement of a man of tolerance, of peaceful coexistence. Those who accuse him of anti-Semitism are misled and misleading, he says. He seeks only an end to Zionist land-grabbing at the expense of the rightful owners.
But those who know him as a Holocaust denier, as a charter member of the PLO, which is nothing if not anti-Semitic, as the head of the Palestinian Authority, which regularly broadcasts anti-Semitic programming, of the PA educational system whose textbooks are rife with anti-Semitic content, know otherwise.
Furthermore, as he has made clear in numerous statements, it is not only Yehudah and Shomron and eastern Yerushalayim that he claims are under “occupation,” it is all of “Palestine,” from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. The “right of return” that Abbas insists must be recognized for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would mean, of course, the end of the state of Israel. In the best possible scenario, Jews and Judaism would be tolerated; more likely it would mean massacre and expulsion.
The claim that “we are the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land 5,000 years ago and continue to live there to this day” did not elicit indignant protests or loud guffaws from the Council members.
Presumably, at least some of the diplomats who listened to this offensive nonsense — who know at least something about history — knew better. But, so what if the Palestinian’s view of history is discredited and delusory? In a civilized society everyone is entitled to his truth. And we are all getting used to fake news. What matters, after all, is that he supports the two-state solution. Or at least his version of it.
The fact that he refuses to meet with American and Israeli representatives — two of whom, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, were seated right behind Ambassador Nikki Haley and are ready to talk with Abbas at any time, as she pointed out — seems not to diminish him as a peacemaker in the eyes of the Council members. That he walked out before Haley or Israeli envoy Danny Danon had their turns to speak similarly did not earn for him any rebuke from the U.N. The Palestinians are not even full members at the U.N., but for some reason such insulting behavior is accepted.
Abbas had the audacity to blame the United States and Israel for the stagnation of the peace process. President Donald Trump is to blame, he said, because the recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital in December forfeited for the United States its role as an honest broker.
To no avail White House officials have pointed out repeatedly that President Trump’s statement about Yerushalayim merely reflects a current reality and in no way was intended to prejudice the disposition of the Holy City in any final-status agreement. Soon a new American peace plan will be unveiled, and then substantive discussions about Yerushalayim can proceed — if the Palestinians will deign to look at the plan.
Rather than looking forward to peace, Abbas prefers to nurse grudges about past offenses. Britain, he asserted on Tuesday, bears responsibility for the “catastrophic consequences” of the Balfour Declaration. The British government has refused to apologize, and recently went ahead with an official commemoration of the centennial of the Balfour Declaration despite Palestinian protests.
It is remarkable, to say the least, that in a Security Council session devoted to the current problem of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian leader feels compelled to drag in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. All of our problems stem from that, he claims, from that promise of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine, “without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities” already there.
To be sure, the vague duality of the Balfour Declaration was problematic for both sides; but to blame it for the decades of hatred and bloodshed that ensued is absurd. Rather, it has been chiefly the rejectionism of the Arabs and Palestinians that has caused those “catastrophic consequences.”
When Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat the entirety of Yehudah and Shomron, as well as eastern Yerushalayim and sovereignty over the Moslem holy places, Arafat rejected it outright and made no counter-proposal. President Bill Clinton blamed Arafat for the failure of the Camp David talks.
So Abbas did come armed. He came armed not with a pistol but with words. With the kind of peace-means-war rhetoric that has resulted in tens of thousands of dead and wounded over a century of war and terrorism. For all those who care to look past the rhetoric, it is apparent that Abbas is no peacemaker.