The Palestinian Authority either does not know what it wants from the Israelis or is too afraid to admit that it does not have a mandate to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
When left-wing parties and candidates were in power, the Palestinian Authority leadership missed several opportunities to reach a peace agreement with Israel.
This happened at least twice during the past 13 years — first, when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak made a generous offer to Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit and later when Ehud Olmert offered even more during his term in office.
So, the Palestinian Authority leadership first misses opportunities to reach agreements with left-wing and centrist parties. Then, when the right-wing comes to power, the Palestinian Authority starts complaining that there is no peace partner in Israel and calls on Israelis not to vote for Binyamin Netanyahu.
The Palestinian Authority’s constant refusal to sign a peace treaty with Israel has undermined the left-wing in Israel, driving many Israelis towards right-wing parties such as Likud Beiteinu and Bayit Yehudi.
It does not really matter who is in power in Israel: no Palestinian leader has a mandate to make any concessions to Israel, let alone sign a peace treaty.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas knows this very well and that is why he will keep coming up with excuses to avoid signing a peace treaty with Israel, regardless of who is in control of the Israeli government.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has felt free all these years to meddle in the internal affairs of Israel.
In the past few weeks, the Palestinian Authority has, both directly and indirectly, urged Israelis not to vote for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and right-wing parties.
The Palestinian Authority’s argument has been along the lines of ‘a vote for Netanyahu is a vote against peace and the two-state solution.’
In a bid to scare the Israeli public, Palestinian officials invited journalists to Ramallah to send a warning message to Israeli voters.
“A vote for Netanyahu is a vote for war and racism,” warned Jibril Rajoub, a top Fatah official and former security commander of the Palestinian Authority.
But while Rajoub and other Palestinian officials and spokesmen were trying to scare Israelis not to vote for right-wing parties, the Palestinian Authority’s spokesmen were issuing statements emphasizing that Palestinians do not meddle in the internal affairs of Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas, who in private meetings has also expressed concern over the re-election of Netanyahu, publicly stated that the Palestinians would “honor” the choice of Israeli voters regardless of who heads the next government.
In yet another sign of Abbas’s effort to impact the outcome of the elections, he held a number of meetings in his office with representatives of various left-wing and Arab parties, including Meretz.
Even Hamas representatives have tried in the past few weeks to impact Israeli voters by talking about the “dangers” of the rise of right-wing parties to power in Israel.
But the Palestinians were not the only ones who had tried to scare Israeli voters.
On the eve of the vote, the Arab league, in an unprecedented move, issued a call to Arab citizens of Israel to “turn out in droves for the elections.”
Employing the same argument used by the Palestinians, the Arab League justified its call by claiming that there were “initial indications” that the right wing in Israel “does not want peace.”
In fact, Palestinian and Arab meddling in the internal affairs of Israel have played into the hands of Netanyahu and his political allies. When Israelis see and hear Palestinian and Arab officials calling on them not to vote for Netanyahu or a specific party, they are most likely inclined to do the exact opposite.
Finally, instead of meddling in the internal affairs of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas should be seeking ways of implementing major reforms in the Palestinian Authority and preparing his people for new elections.
But Abbas is afraid of holding new presidential and parliamentary elections because he knows very well that Hamas would easily win. Abbas has no choice but to return to the negotiating table with Israel, regardless of who heads the new government.
Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.
Khaled Abu Toameh