Today’s Haaretz quotes the president of the Palestinian Authority (elected in 2005 to a term that expired on January 15, 2009) Mahmoud Abbas speaking to the World Economic Forum meeting on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea this evening:
“Do you want us to abduct other Shalits? This is not part of our culture.”
There’s a context to the issuing of this threat. Abbas, the de facto head of one of the two Palestinian Arab statelets, devoted part of this evening’s speech to lamenting the refusal of Israel to negotiate on two specific issues: Palestinian Arab refugees, and Palestinian Arab prisoners.
On “refugees,” Abbas says the Israelis tell him “…only that we don’t want to talk about this issue.” And concerning prisoners, he says the Israeli side tells him “Why should we release these prisoners for free?’ [Source: Haaretz]
There’s a context as well to the difficulties that peace-loving Mahmoud Abbas keeps running into.
Six weeks ago, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency laid out Abbas’s preconditions to getting into negotiations with the Israelis. In “Abbas tells Kerry: We are committed to peace“, they are listed as:
* “Settlements could not be tolerated, particularly Israel’s planned E1 settlement project which would divide the West Bank and isolate Jerusalem.”
* “There would be no return to negotiations without a settlement freeze… The PLO would only return to negotiations with Israel if it stopped building illegal settlements…”
* “…And released all prisoners, particularly those detained before the Oslo Accords were signed.”
* “Abbas also wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present a map of the borders of a future Palestinian state before talks can resume… [He] wants to know, through a map to be presented by Benjamin Netanyahu to [US Secretary of State John] Kerry, what the prime minister’s view of a two-state solution would be, especially the borders…”
* “Any return to negotiations requires Netanyahu to agree on 1967 borders,” his political adviser Nimr Hammad said, referring in fact not to borders but to the 1949 ceasefire lines.
In that same week, a Jerusalem Post article “Kerry in another bid to get Israel, P.A. to talk” quoted two additional demands that Abbas has placed as preconditions to re-starting negotiations with Israel:
* “That Israel hand control over parts of Area C in the West Bank” to the P.A. “Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Area C of the West Bank is under Israel’s exclusive control.”
* Israel must “promise to refrain from withholding Palestinians’ tax revenues in the future.”
None of these are put forward as the goals of peace negotiation. They are all pre-starting points, conditions to walking into the room.
Small wonder that even in the politest of diplomatic circles, Abbas sees no reason to refrain from the threat to carry out additional acts of hostage taking. It’s hard enough for the great man to live with the morale-boosting public opinion coup achieved by his despised rivals from Hamas when they secured the release of 1,027 seasoned terrorists, the large majority of them convicted of murder and conspiracy to murder.
It’s sadly familiar to hear Abbas invoking cultural values that reject kidnapping and hostage-taking while threatening to do exactly that. And worth noting that the Google search term “kidnapped by Palestinian” currently produces more than 660,000 hits.
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