Another Missed Opportunity

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas quickly rejected Benjamin Netanyahu's invitation to address Knesset to share his vision of peace with the Israeli people.

His spokesman said it was just another "gimmick" and a bluff.

If Abbas really feels the Israeli prime minister is bluffing, he should call him on it. As one American politician likes to say, what have you got to lose?

He is passing up on an opportunity to dramatically altar Israeli public opinion with a message of reconciliation, recognition and respect. Rejecting the invitation tells the world would know all his talk about peace is just that, all talk.

Instead of taking the invitation, Abbas called for the international community to ratchet up pressure on Israel and establish the Palestinian state, saving him the inconvenience of negotiations with Israel or Netanyahu, which he considers a waste of time.  In the meantime, he said, the United Nations should "provide international protection for the Palestinian people," who are now waging a knife intifada.

The two leaders, with good reason, don't trust each other and question the other's motives and sincerity.

Netanyahu offered to go to Ramallah, seat of Abbas' government, to present his vision of peace to the Palestinian parliament, knowing it hasn't convened in nearly a decade and many of its members are in Israeli prisons.

Many observers feel Netanyahu knew Abbas would turn him down but he was really talking to Barack Obama, saying, "See, I'm really trying to make peace so don't muck it up with some speech or U.N. resolution after the American election."

Abbas' audience, if he chose to address the Knesset, would be the most powerful force in Israel, even more powerful than the right wing rejectionists Netanyahu has stuffed into his cabinet.  The Israeli voter.  The Israeli public is far more supportive of peace and the two-state solution than its prime minister, who only talks about it, but they are need to be convinced there is a serious partner on the other side.

It's not just the stabbings on the streets but the incitement in the schools, the media and the mosques of the West Bank, incitement that comes from the very top.

Abbas made that clear in his UN speech, which only reinforced the Israeli hardliners.

Netanyahu probably intended his invitation to remind people of Menachem Begin's historic invitation to   Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visit to Jerusalem. When the two leaders shook hands on the tarmac at  Ben Gurion airport on November 19, 1977, the opened the door to peace and an end to decades of war.

Tragically, Abbas is no Sadat, and Netanyahu is no Begin.

Instead they are a pair of petty politicians more intent on finding excuses than opportunities.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.