If the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejects, out of hand, a U.S. offer for statehood—often reported as the objective of the authority—does it make a sound in U.S. print news media? Apparently not.
On March 9, 2016 PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a peace initiative presented, in person, by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Ramallah. The offer proposed a freeze on Israeli settlement construction and a Palestinian state with its capital in eastern Jerusalem—three things which Abbas has claimed previously to want.
In exchange, the PA would be expected to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and desist with calls to destroy its Jewish character by the so-called “right of return.” Under this “right”—not found in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948) or related resolutions as claimed by Palestinian spokesman—descendants of Palestinian Arabs who fled or chose to leave during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war would be allowed to settle in Israel instead of a newly-created Palestinian state. This is an odd and counterintuitive nationalistic aim and one that Fatah, the movement that controls the PA, claimed was to “help Jews get rid of the racist Zionism that wants to impose their permanent isolation from the rest of the world. (Yasser Arafat: A Political Biography, Barry Rubin, Oxford Press, pg. 211).”
The day before Vice President Biden presented the proposal, an American tourist and U.S. Army veteran, Taylor Force, was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in part of municipal Tel Aviv—less than a mile from where Biden was staying. Three other terrorist attacks occurred in Israel on the same day, part of ongoing Palestinian terrorism that has been occurring since September 2015—partly the result of incitement by PA officials and their media.
For example, in a Sept. 16, 2015 speech on official PA TV that preceded an increase of anti-Jewish violence, Abbas claimed that Jews held secret designs on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The PA leader exhorted, “The Al-Aqsa is ours…and they [Jews] have no right to defile it…We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah.” Abbas’ use of the so-called “al-Aqsa libel” echoed that of previous Palestinian Arab leaders, such as his predecessor Yasser Arafat in 2000 and Haj Amin al-Husseini in 1929—who would go on to collaborate with Adolf Hitler during World War II—among other instances.
This is the third known occasion in which Abbas has rejected a potential opportunity to gain a new Palestinian Arab state. (Jordan, with a majority Palestinian Arab population, at least until the current Syria refugee influx, occupies a majority of the land originally designated for the post-World War I Palestine Mandate.) The Palestinian leader—currently in the tenth year of a single, elected four-year term—dismissed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal to restart negotiations for peace with Israel and a Palestinian state in 2014 and an Israeli offer in 2008 after the Annapolis conference, which he acknowledged was refused “out of hand” (“Abbas admits for the first time that he turned down peace offer in 2008,” The Tower, Nov. 17, 2015). Abbas’ predecessor, Yasser Arafat, also rejected statehood and peace with Israel in 2000 at Camp David and 2001 at Taba.
Major U.S. news outlets failed to report Abbas’ rejection of Biden’s offer. According to a Lexis-Nexis search, not a single article appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times or USA Today, among others, on the latest Palestinian rejection of statehood and peace.
This is not to say that there wasn’t any coverage of Israel in the days following Biden’s visit. In a March 14 editorial entitled “Mr. Netanyahu’s Lost Opportunities,” The New York Times blamed the Israeli prime minister for the lack of a “two-state solution” while excusing Abbas as “a weak and aging leader.” The “newspaper of record” failed to specifically note any of Abbas’ refusals of statehood and peace.
Perhaps mention of Palestinian rejectionism—consistent since dismissal of British “two-state” offers in the 1930’s and the 1947 U.N. partition plan, as well as Palestinian autonomy provisions in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and failure to implement the 1990s Oslo accords prior to “final status” talks—would raise a question: has Abbas—or any previous Palestinian Arab leader—really wanted a country of their own if it required making peace with the Jewish state?
Durns is media assistant for the Washington D.C. office of CAMERA–the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. Any opinions expressed above are solely his own.