Addressing the United Nations Security Council a few days ago, Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, claimed to seek broad international support for a new negotiating mechanism with Israel. In reality, Abbas’s visit to New York was a unilateral declaration by the Palestinians that when it comes to possible peace with Israel, their current leadership is no longer seeking a solution, but rather has become the problem.
In recent weeks, statements made by Abbas have veered dangerously into the realm of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Speaking in January, Abbas claimed that the Zionist movement, which was founded to further the millennia-old dream of returning the Jewish people to their historic homeland, was in fact a colonialist plot. He even went as far as to claim that Jews welcomed anti-Semitism as an excuse to advance their national goals.
These are not the words of a Palestinian leader ready to accept the legitimacy of the world’s only Jewish state and enter into serious negotiations. Coupled with his latest declarations that he is now boycotting American mediation and is instead seeking new mediators, the chairman of the PA has all but confirmed that his ultimate goal is to ensure a state of prolonged and unresolved conflict.
Supporters of the Palestinians defend these hateful statements by Abbas as the words of a discouraged leaders dealing with the consequences of new Israeli and American policies. The truth is, however, that nothing has changed that would prejudice the outcome of possible future negotiations and would justify such extreme actions by Abbas.
We will always insist on Israeli sovereignty over a united Jerusalem, but even fair-minded observers would agree that under any possible agreement, the city would be recognized internationally as our capital and all embassies would move to their rightful home. Subsequently, the attempts by Abbas to lay the blame for the diplomatic impasse on the Americans’ recent announcement amounts to nothing more than a poorly constructed straw-man argument raised as an excuse to avoid the negotiating table.
This begs the question: What has changed to lead to such an about-face by a leader often touted as a Palestinian moderate who seeks a peaceful future for his people? The truth is that all we have seen now is Abbas speaking his mind openly and loudly while portraying the same messages and policies that he has long espoused to domestic and Arab audiences.
In September 2015, as violence was surging in the region, Abbas fanned the flames further by claiming that Jews were not welcome on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, as they would desecrate the holy site with their “filthy feet.” A few month later, in a speech to European parliamentarians, Abbas repeated a vile blood libel accusing rabbis of seeking to poison Palestinian drinking wells. This should perhaps not come as any surprise seeing that in his 1984 dissertation, Abbas made the dubious claim of a “secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism.”
While many have portrayed him as a leader seeking an historic reconciliation with Israel, Abbas has consistently rejected possible peace deals over the past two decades. Analysts have noted that at the Camp David summit in 2000, Abbas was one of the Palestinian leaders urging Yasser Arafat to reject the unprecedented offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Once he succeeded Arafat as the head of the PA, Abbas went on to reject another generous offer by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then left proposals by US Secretary of State John Kerry unanswered.
The latest amplification by Abbas of his views, which deny the legitimacy of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and his insistence on avoiding direct negotiations should leave no doubt. When it comes to seeking a better future for our region, the role of the current generation of Palestinian leadership is over.
Israelis are an optimistic people. We weathered four bloody wars with Egypt while waiting for a leader of Anwar Sadat’s caliber to come forward and courageously visit Jerusalem. It took decades of talks with Jordan until the time was right for King Hussein to enter into what he rightly called a “peace of the brave” with Israel.
We have no doubt that the day will come when the Palestinian people will be blessed with such leadership as well. This will be a leadership that ends the despicable practice of incentivizing murder by paying monthly salaries to terrorists. It will be a leadership that educates its people towards tolerance instead of peddling in anti-Semitism. Finally, it will need to be a leadership that recognizes that Israel is, and always will be, the national homeland of the Jewish people.
We eagerly await the day when this new Palestinian leadership will take the reins of power and bring the hope of a better future for their people. Until that day comes, Israel will continue to defend itself on every battlefield and in every international forum.
Danny Danon is Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations.