Okay, so it’s been confirmed. Mahmoud Abbas has talked endlessly about wanting to create an independent Palestine in harmony and at peace with its neighbor, the world’s only Jewish-majority state. But it turns out that he still espouses the anti-Semitism he voiced when, decades ago, he was a so-called graduate student spouting Holocaust trivialization.
He now publicly acknowledges that his understanding of history — inculcated in the ivy-covered halls of dear old Moscow U. — tells him that Nazis and their allies murdered millions of Jews, not because they harbored a homicidal hatred of Jews, but because Jewish bankers charged too much interest. Yes, exactly. After all, if you have to pay excessive interest rates, what alternative do you have other than murdering your banker and millions of his coreligionists?
Although Abbas’s crude anti-Semitic calumnies are disgusting, they turn out, on careful analysis, to be inconsequential, because Abbas himself is inconsequential. Allow me to explain.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, a question among those who support Israel has been: is there a genuine partner for peace on the other side of the table? The question was first asked of Yasser Arafat and then, since Arafat’s death in 2004, of Abbas. (Abbas was elected to a four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority that began in January of 2005; whether or not you believe he is still president depends on your math skills.)
What do we mean by “a genuine partner for peace” in this context? I think there is a subjective element and also an objective element to the answer. The subjective element is whether or not the Palestinian leader and, by extension, the people he leads have a good-faith desire to live in peace beside the State of Israel. This depends on what is in their heads and/or hearts.
But, much more fundamental and important is the objective element. That is, regardless of what is in the heads or hearts of Palestinians, does their designated leader have the political power needed to enforce a peace agreement with Israel? If Abbas signed a peace agreement, would violence by Palestinians against Israel largely cease? It must be obvious to everyone — except perhaps EU Foreign Affairs Representative Federica Mogherini, former US Secretary of State John Kerry, and all others who flatly refuse to see what is before their own eyes — that Abbas utterly lacks the requisite political muscle.
Abbas lacks the power because the Palestinians who control the guns, the rockets, and the tunnels that are used to threaten and attack Israel are members of Hamas and other Islamist terror groups. They have a sincere belief that the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is “Islamic” land (because it was at one time controlled by Muslims), and that every pious Muslim has a religious obligation to erase Jewish sovereignty from all that land. They are willing to die — or, in their terms, to be martyred — for their beliefs. For the Palestinian Islamist terrorists, the struggle with Israel is a religious war.
The terrorists are the ones who would have to lay down their guns, surrender their rockets, and collapse their tunnels, if there is to be genuine peace with Israel. Those terrorists already have nothing but contempt (and a bullet) for Abbas. If he were to agree to peace with Israel, their hatred of Abbas would only grow. In this vital sense, Abbas is a “leader” without followers.
The armed forces of Abbas’ PA were violently expelled from Gaza by Hamas in 2007. There is a reason Abbas has not set foot in Gaza since then: he prefers not to be assassinated. The State of Palestine that Abbas wants to create would, in geographic terms, be very small, consisting only of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Yet the putative “leader” of the Palestinian state-to-be cannot safely enter a major part of that tiny state, because he fears a deadly attack from his “followers”. And this is a leader who has the necessary political power to enforce a peace agreement with Israel? Of course not.
So, it really does not matter that Abbas embraces many of the classic themes of anti-Semitism. If he were the most pro-Semitic person in the world, he still would not qualify as a genuine partner for peace. He is impotent, a spent case. No one could reasonably expect, if Abbas and his PA entered into a peace agreement with Israel, that the attacks on Israel from Hamas and other terrorist groups would diminish to any substantial degree. In fact, in order to demonstrate their rejection of what they would certainly think is a “traitorous, un-Islamic” agreement, the terrorists might well increase attacks on Israel.
Abbas is like the picture of the Dome of the Rock that is the standard background when he is photographed — it looks like a picture of the Dome, but it’s only a picture of a picture of the Dome. He likes to pretend that his offices are in East Jerusalem overlooking the Dome, but they’re not. He also likes to pretend that he is the leader of the Palestinians, but he’s not.