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Storytime with Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, published a risible editorial in yesterday’s New York Times in which he lays out the case for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. In it, he performs some quite breathtaking feats of historical revisionism. Here’s a partial list:

  1. He assigns all blame for the 1948 War of Israeli Independence to the Jews, with no mention of the Arabs’ wholesale rejection of the UN partition recommendation or of the simultaneous invasion by five Arab armies intended to snuff out Israel at birth
  2. He implies that the Jews’ intention was to ethnically cleanse Arabs from Palestine — despite the fact that a fifth of Israel is Arab, and that Israeli Arabs are full Israeli citizens, unlike Palestinians in the Arab world, who are almost uniformly treated like garbage — while ignoring a) the effort by the Arab nations to cleanse their Jewish populations in response to the UN partition recommendation and b) the real ethnic cleansing committed by the Jews, which was the forcible removable of Jewish Israelis from Gaza in 2005 as a concession to the Palestinians — a concession that was perceived as weakness, not peaceableness, and was accordingly met by a sharp uptick in Palestinian violence against Israel
  3. He fails to mention, as David Harris at the Jerusalem Post points out, that the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem were in Palestinian hands from 1948 until 1967 and there was nary a peep from them demanding sovereignty, and that these territories fell into Israeli hands following yet another attempt by the Arabs to destroy Israel
  4. He ignores all Israeli offers of peace deals through the years and Palestinian rejection of same
  5. He does not mention his own refusal to negotiate, even following the major Israeli concession of a ten-month settlement freeze
  6. He does not mention the Palestinian Authority’s recent reconciliation with Hamas, which remains vocally and unequivocally committed to the total destruction of the state of Israel

That last item is downright hilarious, in view of Abbas’s assertion in the editorial that “[t]he State of Palestine intends to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.” Forget the way Hamas treats Israelis — look at how they treat Gazans. Peace-loving? Human rights? Who is he kidding?

Abbas’s piece, for all its gentle tones of avuncular admonishment, is a threat, pure and simple. Israel’s rights and needs are no longer relevant. As Noah Pollack noted in Commentary,  Abbas makes clear that the Palestinians’ object is to use statehood as a cudgel to beat Israel with. Pollack notes this passage in the editorial:

Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

Pollack’s interpretation of these lines is precisely on target:

After statehood, [Abbas] dismisses even the pretense of working toward peace. Instead, he openly promises that Palestine would assault Israel relentlessly in international legal, political, and diplomatic fora. This is where Fatah and Hamas now join together in substance as well as appearance.

Until today, Fatah had convinced the world that it had submitted to the linkage of peace with statehood: a Palestinian state would only arise through negotiations with Israel that, at their completion, would require the Palestinians to cease their claims against the Jewish State and declare the conflict over. Hamas, on the other hand, has been perfectly happy to give its blessing (as Khaled Mashaal did last week) to the creation of a Palestinian state — just so long as the continuation of terrorism and the quest for the ultimate destruction of Israel, diplomatically and otherwise, is preserved.

Today, Abbas has brought Fatah and Hamas together in this goal. It is an important moment. Both factions now agree on a strategy of statehood without peace. Despite the ugliness of it all, we should applaud Abbas for writing such a clear and forthright statement, in English, to a western audience, that explains with perfect sobriety what his intentions are. Mahmoud Abbas wants a state not so he can pursue peace; he wants a state so he can pursue war against Israel.

I would venture to suspect that despite his reference to the 1967 lines, Abbas’s allegiance with Hamas — and his reverential citing of Naqba Day, which commemorates not the Arabs’ loss in 1967 but their loss in 1948 — show his real aspiration to be the reconquest of all Israel. By throwing negotiations out the window and pursuing unilateral statehood, he has nullified the Oslo Accords, ended the peace process, and exposed his own duplicity. What remains to be seen is the extent to which he will be enabled by the international community to proceed towards his, and Hamas’s, true goal.