In a pair of dueling speeches at the United Nations, Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the door shut on future peace talks between two leaders who neither trust nor like each other.
Abbas' vitriol-laced United Nations speech accusing Israel of "genocide," "war crimes," "racism," "apartheid," "state terrorism" and "preparing for a new Naqba (catastrophe)" was not the words of a peacemaker. He deliberately distorted the truth, totally ignoring that the war was ignited by Hamas' missile and rocket barrages on Israeli communities.
Netanyahu properly called him on it. Here is one passage from the PM's address:
Israel was doing everything to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television, all this to enable Palestinian civilians to evaluate targeted areas. No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies.
The State Department angrily condemned Abbas' speech, calling it "offensive," "deeply disappointing," "provocative" and "counterproductive."
The advisor believed responsible for inserting much of that language in Abbas speech, his chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, gave chutzpah a new meaning when he called the Obama administration's response "provocative."
Abbas's speech was a gift to Netanyahu. It said I'm not serious so you don't have to be either. The reality is neither man was ever really ready to make the "historic compromises" Netanyahu called for but once again avoided in his speech from the same stage on Monday.
Netanyahu, as demonstrated in an announcement in Jerusalem just before his Oval Office meeting with President Obama, would rather build settlements than peace, and reinforcing the belief that he has no intention of allowing a viable Palestinian state to be born.
Netanyahu never even mentioned the two-state approach in his UN speech, mentioning it only in his brief remarks with the President for the media. The PM has put so many conditions on his definition of peace – a long-term if not permanent Israeli military presence in the West Bank, among others – as to make a convincing case that he will talk the talk but is far from ready to walk the walk toward real peace.
Reality remains that the two leaders are so far apart on the full range of issues that peace is near impossible so long as both men are in office.