Photo Credit: Flash 90
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud "Abu Mazen" Abbas

If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned! ~Victor Hugo

Everybody knows that Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmud Abbas has no legitimacy left in the 15th year of his 4-year term in office.

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Everybody knows that Abbas runs a corrupt administration that controls opposition through violence. The left-leaning New York Times described it as “inept, remote, self-serving and ever more authoritarian.”

Everybody knows that Abbas encourages terrorism through incitement and funding of terrorists and their families (his “Pay for Slay” policy), and that he continues this policy even though it now means not receiving a dime in aid from the United States for Palestinian security services.

Everybody knows that Abbas and his predecessor rejected peace offers from Israel that involved exactly what Abbas now pretends that he wants: A state in Gaza and Judea and Samaria (which he insists on calling the West Bank of Jordan) with East Jerusalem as its capital. Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli peace activist described these Palestinian peace rejections in his book “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor” as, “the shattering moment for many Israelis who believed in the possibility of resolving the conflict”.

Everybody knows that Abbas continues to refuse to discuss peace even though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has many times offered to engage in peace negotiations with Abbas without pre-conditions, including as far back as 2011. As soon as he took office in 2009, Netanyahu endorsed “the principle of a Palestinian state alongside Israel”. Some critics of Netanyahu claim that these offers are not genuine, but they cannot explain why Abbas would not call his bluff, assuming that it is one.

Everybody knows that Abbas is no peacemaker and no democrat. He is a corrupt leader who enriches himself (his net worth was estimated at $100 million in 2015) while he solves none of his people’s problems, even when he can. And yet, Abbas is fêted and dined by world leaders, he is praised as the Palestinian people’s best hope for peace and a better future, and he was even honored with the position of chair of a group of 134 developing countries at the United Nations.

So why this contradiction? Is most of the world blind to the reality of what Abbas is? Are they unable to see that the Abbas they describe is fictional? Not likely. World leaders are not stupid, they are hypocritical.

Abbas said recently at a “peace conference” in Ramallah (a place that Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering since it is in Area A which is controlled by Abbas’ PA), “I hope whoever wins the upcoming elections in Israel will want peace, love peace and reach out for peace. We have been reaching out for peace for a long time.”

This is not a credible statement from a man who has refused a peace offer in the past, who refuses to even discuss peace, and who does everything in his power to ensure that terrorism continues.

Everybody knows that Abbas is lying, but almost everybody pretends to believe it because it allows them to maintain some cherished myths:

  • The myth that a negotiated two-state solution is still possible.
  • The myth that there is a moral equivalence between the Israeli government and the PA.
  • The myth that if Hamas could be sidelined to the advantage of Abbas and if Israel’s right-wing government could be replaced, there would be peace.

These myths allow world leaders to ignore the causes of the conflict while they make sanctimonious statements about the need for “both sides” to use restraint, and the need for “both sides” to compromise.

Earlier in his mandate, US President Donald Trump seemed to play along with the fictional Abbas when he said at a meeting with Abbas, “President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal [a peace agreement] in good faith”.

Since then, the relationship between the Trump administration and Abbas has gone steadily downhill, to the point where the US no longer even pretends to see any moral equivalence between Israel and the PA.

This fact was made clear recently by an unnamed senior US official who said, “We don’t believe that in order for us to work on a peace effort we need to have an equivalency, where we can only say certain things about Israel if at the same time we also say something about the Palestinians. Not only does that not work; we don’t think it’s right. We say what’s on our mind; we speak the truth. The truth may be uncomfortable for some people. But we cannot solve the conflict without being open and honest.”

I have been waiting for a long time to hear these words from a Western government, and I hope that they will be said more officially.

The fictional Abbas allows world leaders to ignore what needs to be done to achieve peace: end Palestinian terrorism by denouncing it, refusing to fund it directly or indirectly, boycotting those who fund it, and demanding accountability from Palestinian leaders. These now seem to be the policies of the US government, but others must follow suit before the policies can be effective.

The fictional Abbas allows world leaders to ignore the difficult actions and positions that could bring stability, peace, and economic success to Palestinians while bringing security to Israelis.

The fictional Abbas is the excuse that keeps the Palestinians down while the world pretends to supports them. Shame.

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Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected.