The coming of autumn marks not only the transition between seasons, but in the Jewish world marks the beginning of a new year in the Hebrew calendar. This is perhaps the only time in the entire year where the Jewish world is united in reflection and optimism during the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Be it following a challenging year or a successful one, every Jew prays for a fresh start and new beginning in tackling future obstacles and achieving future success in the new year.
This year, the 5775th one in the Jewish Calendar, was brought in with a speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the United Nations on September 26th, a speech that appeared to be lacking in optimism or belief in peaceful coexistence with Israel. Abbas’ speech highlights what many in Israel have questioned for a long time; Is Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party legitimate peace partners for Israel? By denouncing Israel for its war crimes, its occupation of the Gaza Strip and excessive force during Operation Protective Edge, Abbas has proved he has overstayed his welcome at the top of the Palestinian food chain and is anything but the moderate partner the world has dubbed him since 2005.
Since gaining the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority, the world has looked towards Mahmoud Abbas to lead the people called Palestinians. Along with his Fatah, Abbas has dominated Palestinian politics since the 1950s. A leader in the “armed struggle against Israel”, Abbas has negotiated and stood with Fatah between the 1972 Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes and the suicide bombings against Israeli civilians of the first and second intifadas in the 1990s and 2000s, in the former Abbas played the role of amassing funds for the arming and deploying of the terrorists. In what seemed fitting with its history of murder, destruction and conflict, Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of Fatah in 2005 and has replaced Arafat as the President of the party that represents the PA. It is this party that the world deems Israel’s partner for peace.
Since his inheritance of the PA, Abbas has taken none but counterproductive strides towards peace and coexistence with Israel. By allying with terror organisations, like Hamas, and reluctantly engaging in peace talks, Abbas has continued to undermine his position and delegitimise the demands of the people he represents. None of his actions demonstrate his lack of resolve in this bloody status quo than his continued demands for the releases of convicted terrorists from Israeli prison. Prisoner releases have often been a pre condition to participating in negotiations with Israel.
Most recently in 2013, where there was an opportunity to request for funds, infrastructure and investments from Israel, Fatah and Abbas’ demanded the release of one thousand Arab terrorists held in Israeli prisons as a precondition to the join the negotiations table. All the former could have been used to strengthen and legitimise his vision of a future Palestinian State. How can the man choosing terrorists over the future of his own people be considered a partner for peace?
The year 2006 was a truly telling one in the year of the Arab-Jewish conflict. Following the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, the Palestinian Authority went to the polls and the people had an oppurtunity to elect new leadership. These elections yielded results showing not Abbas’ Fatah, rather Ismail Haniyeh’s Hamas, a terror organization committed to the destruction of the state of Israel, winning a majority of the votes and the right to represent the PA. An election that began with so much promise with the potential for the Arabs in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) and Gaza to elect a new Palestinian leader, led to the appointment of more terrorists bent on the destruction of the Jewish State. The following eight years have proven how horribly these elections have gone to delegitimise the peace process with the PA and the case for those who are the Palestinian people. Since 2006, Gaza and Judea and Samaria have split, Hamas and Fatah have engaged in civil war, and most tragically, no resolution to the Arab-Jewish conflict or new elections in the PA.
Returning to 2014, if Abbas’ speech to the United Nations is any indication, the prospect of peace between Israel and the Fatah led Palestinian Authority is over and a new partner is needed at the negotiations table. The international community must call upon the Palestinian Authority to authorise a fresh start to this new year and a return to the democratic system that the constituents of the PA have been deprived of since 2006. When the time comes for new elections and a new leader, it is the turn of those who make up the Palestinian people to legitimise their claims as a people and for statehood by rectifying the errors made in 2006 in the election of Hamas. If these people truly want peace, they must prove it by electing a ruler who is committed to the peace process and a coexistence that Israel and every Jew has dreamt about in each new year since 1948.
Cited below is a full transcript of Mahmoud Abbas’, President of the Palestinian Authority, speech to the UN General Assembly on September 26th, 2014
Abbas, M. (2014, September 26). Speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-of-abbas-speech-to-un/)