Monday, September 26, 2011

Abbas' historical deception

Dan Margalit

See if you can spot the difference. In Israel, all three television networks appropriately broadcast Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' General Assembly speech in full. In Ramallah, the screens went dark before viewers could even catch a glimpse of Netanyahu. Abbas spoke of two states, without mentioning two peoples. This was a calculated move -- an attempt to convey that the Jews are not a people or nation. It's true that Netanyahu's speech was tinged with bias. For instance, the Palestinians did not reject all of Israel's justified security demands -- some of them have in fact been accepted by Abbas. We should also point out that the separation fence does not protect Jews exclusively.

In a speech that was, by and large, accurate and truthful, Netanyahu reiterated the theme that was begging to be aired: Let's talk. He reached out his hand, but there was no hand extended to meet his. He should have further pressed home the point that Abbas previously rejected generous peace proposals from Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. Instead, he lightly glossed over that argument.

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Compare Netanyahu's actions to Abbas' historical deception. Who produced the Nakba? Who attacked the nascent Jewish state in 1947? Who refused to recognize Israel while it was actually contained within the 1967 borders? Who attacked Israel when it defended those borders, and brought the results of the Six-Day War -- and with them, the wider-flung borders -- upon themselves? It's unseemly to use harsh words against a rival leader but Abbas' descriptions of IDF actions in the territories, its protection of hilltop youth and use of special weapons are all boldfaced lies. Incitement, pure and simple.

Worst of all is his refusal to recognize the Jewish people as a nation and the threat to Israeli sovereignty within the 1967 lines implied by his statement that his nation has been oppressed for 63 years. That implies that Arab-Palestinian citizens in Tayibeh, Umm al-Fahm and Jaffa are living under occupation. If that is Abbas' view of things, then he does not have his sights set on peace but rather on Israel's destruction in stages: First, the 1967 lines. Then, all of Israel thrown into the sea. That's why he doesn't want a peace agreement that would declare an end to the conflict and recognize the Jews as a nation.

The speeches delivered by both leaders were divisive in tone. Immediately afterward, the Quartet proposed an outline for renewing dialogue. Our government ought to accept it. But the Palestinians were quick to reject it. They have never lacked for excuses.

Except an ambush lies in wait from the direction of Paris. French President Nicholas Sarkozy is kissing up to the Palestinians, proposing that they not wait for the Security Council to deliberate over full U.N. membership. Sarkozy wants to simultaneously launch a deliberation in the General Assembly over granting the Palestinians immediate observer-state status. Abbas is interested. This is a provocation in the place of serious negotiations, and that's a pity. Because it is in Israel's interest that a Palestinian state be established alongside it, for our own sake, and for the sake of our neighbor nation and all the countries of the region. The French proposal, as opposed to the Quartet's negotiations, would create a missed opportunity.

An experienced leftist legal scholar who understood the divide between the speeches by the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders said that while Netanyahu does not oppose a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he does not want one. Perhaps there is truth in this suspicion. On the other hand, Abbas proved on Friday that he does not want a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The Israeli may be a suspect, but the Palestinian has been proven guilty.

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