Today, under the Obama administration – as yesterday under the Bush administration – U.S. policy toward the Arab war on Israel is largely based on the notion that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction are genuine moderates who reject terrorism and accept Israel’s right to exist, and are therefore committed to building a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel.
But we can no longer ignore the fact that Abbas and Fatah do not accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. The idea that they do has always been an illusion – which Abbas recently reconfirmed.
Speaking at a conference of the Palestinian Youth Parliament in Ramallah, Abbas reiterated past statements demonstrating that he does not accept Israel as a Jewish state.
“I say this clearly: I do not accept the Jewish state, call it what you will,” he said. At the end of the conference, Abbas was presented with a large framed map of “Palestine,” labeled in English, covering the entire area of Israel.
Abbas has made the same point just as clearly in the past. In October 2006, for example, speaking in Arabic on Dubai’s al Arabiya TV, he said plainly, “It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel.”
During and since the 2007 Annapolis conference, Abbas and other senior PA officials explicitly repudiated accepting Israel as a Jewish state. For example, Abbas stated, “The Palestinians do not accept the formula that the state of Israel is a Jewish state.”
Other senior Fatah figures have been equally revealing. Muhammad Dahlan, the former commander of Fatah forces in Gaza, had this to say only weeks ago on PA TV: “I want to say for the thousandth time, in my own name and in the name of all of my fellow members of the Fatah movement: We do not demand that the Hamas movement recognize Israel. On the contrary, we demand of the Hamas movement not to recognize Israel, because the Fatah movement does not recognize Israel, even today.”
Similarly, Abu Ahmed, a Fatah commander has said, “The base of our Fatah movement keeps dreaming of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa and Acco.… There is no change in our official position. Fatah as a movement never recognized Israel.”
He also said that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the terror arm of Fatah which has murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians since the start of the terror war in September 2000, is “one and the same” with the Fatah party.
Naturally, all this flies in the face of the many statements Abbas and other high Fatah officials have made in English to Western leaders and audiences over the years. But Abbas’s actual and unreconstructed extremism and rejection of the legitimacy and permanence of a Jewish state is perfectly consistent with the Fatah constitution, which to this day calls for the “complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence” (Article 12) and for terrorism as “ a strategy and not a tactic…this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished” (Article 19).
It is also consistent with the PA maps of Palestine that do not show a country called Israel or Fatah’s 43rd anniversary emblem that had Israel labeled “Palestine” and draped in a Palestinian headdress.
And it is also consistent with numerous Palestinian polls that show majority support for terrorism and rejection of Israel, like the Near East consulting poll of 2007 that found 75 percent of Palestinians do not believe that Israel has a right to even exist.
How much more evidence is required before Western policy makers – including officials in the Obama administration – and the Western media take notice?
There is a widespread unwillingness to acknowledge these facts because few wish to face the implication of doing so – the implication being that the Arab war on Israel is a not about to end, no matter what Israel or the U.S. does or does not do. Until and unless the Arab world, Palestinians in particular, accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, fight terror and end incitement, that won’t change.
Under current circumstances, PA leadership and Palestinian society have little incentive to change. But if the Obama administration truly wishes to see the conflict ended, it is obvious the U.S. has unique leverage that could be beneficial.