Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If only the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was as easy as teaching five-year-olds how to share.

The comments made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week, took many an Israel-supporter off guard. Utterances such as, “I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine. And the other parts are Israel,” a vow to prevent another violent Palestinian Intifada, like that of last decade, and another to use diplomacy and peaceful protests, were words no one had ever thought would be heard by any Palestinian figure.

But that skepticism lies with good reason. Why should anyone believe empty language when Abbas can barely maintain power over his people? One can’t easily forget his short-lived union with Hamas back in 2007, the governing body over Gaza who proclaims Israel has absolutely no right to exist. That union died quickly, with Hamas getting fed up with Abbas, and just proclaiming itself the sole controllers of the Gaza Strip. Shortly thereafter, Abbas went to the United Nations to request statehood for its own Palestinian State. He didn’t go to request this with the approval of Israeli or a majority of international bodies, including the US. Instead, he went to try and show his people he too was powerful and could accomplish for them like Hamas could.

When I read the words of Abbas, I read weakness. I read a leader, trying so desperately hard to show his people that he is not Hamas, but that he is better. However, with the Palestinian people’s basic needs being neglected throughout this governing power struggle, they are not educated enough to understand that the radical way of Hamas is not the best way to achieve their goals. While Hamas’ Ruler Ismail Haniyeh reacted to Abbas’ words with discontent stating, “it is not possible for any person, regardless of who he is … to give up a hand’s width of this Palestinian land, or to give up the right of return to our homes from which we were forced out,” Abbas is proclaiming diplomacy and peace. We’ve seen how effective diplomacy and peace has been with the Arab Spring; it just doesn’t seem to work for the revolutionaries.

Abbas is no revolutionary, though. He has been ruling the PA for quite some time, with little success on the peace front, and little accomplishment in improving the lives of his people. His people will only notice him again if his bid does go through the UN, and they pass the statehood (a very unlikely action). Abbas is manipulating the media into thinking he’s ready to make concessions for peace: even by “giving up the ability to live in his hometown of Safed.” However, nothing he said is in writing. Nothing’s in stone. All he needs is the UN to approve his bid, and a Palestinian state within the current Israeli borders will be born. Then, with the attention of the Palestinian people, he can redeem himself and call his aforementioned promises his very own “hudaybiyyah,” as Arafat had proclaimed with the Oslo Accords. A huge load of empty promises, and an even bigger load of empty hope.

About the Author
Melanie Goldberg is a current student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She also serves as the research assistant for Versa: The Israeli Supreme Court English Language Repository, and founded a chapter of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights on her campus. Most recently, she was one of the recipients of The Jewish Week's "36 under 36" award.