It requires a keen sense of irony to write the headline Newsweek
featured last week: "The Wrath of Abbas: Fed up with stalled peace
talks, the Palestinian leader defies Israel and vents about Obama."
Peace talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have stalled for one simple reason:
Abbas refuses to attend. He has demanded Israeli concessions in
exchange for resuming negotiations. In other words, Abbas is stalling
the peace talks – and, by golly, he's fed up with it!
According to Newsweek, Obama encouraged Abbas to take a hard line but
then did not put sufficient pressure on Netanyahu. That's why Abbas
decided to "vent" about Obama to Newsweek reporter Dan Ephron who
boasts that Abbas "let Newsweek into his personal space" which
included a specially fitted-out Airbus A318 borrowed from the United
Arab Emirates and suites at the Hotel Le Meurice in Paris. Surprise,
surprise: Ephron found Abbas "affable" and "moderate in his approach
to Israel and unequivocally against violence."
Just a few days after the article was published Abbas announced that
Fatah, his political party, which rules on the West Bank, had agreed
to form a "unity government" with Hamas, which rules Gaza and remains
openly committed to the extermination of Israel.
Hamas' ideology is not markedly different from that of al-Qaeda as was
illustrated this week when Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' prime minister,
responded to the death of Osama bin Laden by saying: "We condemn the
assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to
offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs."
So, it turns out, Abbas has not just "defied Israel" and "vented"
about Obama. He also has put Obama in a bind: Does the President now
stop aid to the Palestinians? Or does he try to convince Congress and
the American public that spending taxpayer money to support a
terrorist organization that mourns bin Laden as a "holy warrior" and
"martyr" is a shrewd policy choice?
To complicate matters further, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a
"military wing" of Fatah which reports to Abbas, called bin Laden's
death a "catastrophe," adding: "We say to the American and Israeli
occupier: the [Islamic] nation which produced leaders who changed the
course of history through their Jihad... is capable of restoring the
glory of Islam and the flag of Allah's oneness, Allah willing." The
"moderate" and "unequivocally against violence" Abbas has not appeared
shocked by this expression of jihadism within his organization.
Perhaps that's because he's been so busy preparing a "unilateral
declaration of statehood" that he wants the UN to approve. He wants
the U.N. to say, too, that the borders between this Palestinian state
and Israel will be the armistice lines left in place after the first
Arab war to eliminate Israel in 1948-49. Those lines remained until
1967 – when Israel's Arab neighbors made another concerted attempt to
wipe Israel off the map.
At the conclusion of that conflict, Israel had taken the Sinai and
Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan. Israel returned the
Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a peace treaty signed in 1979 and
withdrew from Gaza in 2005. (Hamas has been launching missiles at
Israel from Gaza ever since.) In the past, Israel also has offered to
turn over more than 90 percent of the West Bank but, in exchange, it
wants -- and has been promised by both American governments and
international agreements – "defensible borders," which means not quite
the lines Arab armies crossed in 1967.
The Newsweek article concludes by suggesting that Obama could do more
about the "unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict" which continues
"to be an irritant for Arabs and a source of resentment against the
United States." The reason he is not? With elections coming up he
would not want "to risk alienating Israel's supporters by pressing the
Ah yes, it's "Israel's supporters" who are the obstacles to peace –
not Hamas, not the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and certainly not the
affable Mr. Abbas. It requires a wicked sense of humor – or no sense
at all – to write that.