Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hammered away at Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas refusal to recognize Israel as Jewish state Sunday night in an address at Bar-Ilan University.
The Prime Minister’s speech, four years after his address to the university when he recognized for the first the idea of “two states,” was devoted to two subjects – Israel as a Jewish state and the Iranian threat.
He was careful to stay on the good side of President Barack Obama, and he underlined how Israel and the United States “see eye-to-eye” on the need to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
He delivered the same message as in the United Nations last week, but with a different punch. Prime Minister Netanyahu challenged anyone who believes that Iran is not trying to obtain nuclear weapons to ask it, “Why do you need centrifuges and plutonium?…Seventeen countries have nuclear energy without centrifuges and plutonium. Only someone interested in nuclear weapons wants them.”
In his remarks on the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu showed the other side of the coin from his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan. On Sunday, Netanyahu did not offer Abbas any plums. He ripped apart the claim that the “settlements” are the heart of the conflict by noting Arab attacks and pogroms on Israel since 1921.
He methodically opened up the past on the Muslim Mufti in Israel who encouraged the Nazi regime to annihilate Jews, throughout World War II. Prime Minister Netanyahu noted evidence that the Muft once was hosted by Adolf Eichmann during a visit to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
That was his starting point for verbally attacking the Palestinian Authority for a long history of denying that Jews have a right to their own country in Israel.
He constantly challenged Abbas to compromise and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has turned the demand into a manta and has repeated it so many times that, given the culture of self-pride in the Middle East, Abbas would appear to be bowing down to the “Zionists” if he were to do so.
But Abbas is getting lots of advice from outside the Palestinian Authority.
Israel’s leftwing coaches him. The New Israel Fund, Yossi Beilin and J Street officials have taught him to say the right things at the right time.
Netanyahu is gambling that Abbas will continue “not to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” as Israel’s late Ambassador to the United Nations Abba Eban once said of the Arabs.
If Abbas ever does get up the courage to say what Netanyahu has been goading him to do for three years, the Prime Minister will have a big problem.
The United States and the European Union will put him at the head of the parade to the Nobel Peace Prize and declare, “See! Abbas has made a concession. He proves he wants peace. Don’t ask for anything else. Don’t you know how hard it was for him to say the magic word ‘Jewish’? Now shut up and hand over everything he wants.”
Netanyahu has history with him. The Arabs, and particularly the Palestinian Authority, always respond to winning by concessions with the thinking they can have it all. If Abbas were to blink and concede, his life would be in even more danger than today. He would need to the IDF to protect him.
So long as Abbas does not blink, Israel is safe.
Netanyahu also has one other factor in his favor. Abbas does not read The Jewish Press.