Mahmoud Abbas: The Palestinian Authority’s Phony ‘Moderate’
Imagine what would happen if an Israeli—ANY Israeli—said that a final treaty between Israel and the Arabs would leave no Arabs living inside Israel.
There would be riots in the Arab communities of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Lod, Ramla, and, of course, Jerusalem.
There would be bombs exploding and blood flowing, with the likes of Christiane Amanpour and Tom Friedman licking up every drop.
There would be media hysteria, diplomatic earthquakes, a United Nations condemnation, and a European Union resolution of economic sanctions.
But when “moderate” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says the same thing, one hears not a hiccup or gasp from Barack Obama or UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon or Christiane Amanpour or Tom Friedman or Fareed Zakaria.
“In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli—civilian or soldier—on our lands,” Abbas told reporters when he came to Cairo to meet Egypt’s interim president.
Abbas is held to a different standard of reality, because he is the leader of a terrorist organization that pretends it is no longer a terrorist organization—Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement as well as Arafat’s PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).
Abbas pretends to lead the Palestinians, though he lost Gaza to Hamas more than seven years ago, and though his term as leader of the Palestinian Authority expired several years ago, too.
As they used to say on several comedy shows: n-e-v-e-r m-i-n-d.
Still, Abbas is granted a double standard by some foolish Israeli and American reporters and officials who insist on calling him Abu-Mazen. That is like calling him “Uncle Joey.” “Abu Mazen” is a kunya or lahak in Arabic. It means “father of Mazen,” Abbas’ eldest son. It is an affectionate nickname, a way of cuddling.
ABC’s Peter Jennings used to fawn that way over Yasser Arafat, using his Arabic nickname – “Abu-Amaar.” The late Jennings once covered Beirut and was close to PLO media mouthpiece Hanan Ashrawi. But hugging Arafat like an uncle did not make Arafat a man of peace any more than calling Abbas “Abu Mazen” makes him a moderate.
Can you imagine President John Kennedy dealing with Nikita Khrushchev over missiles in Cuba and calling the Soviet leader “Nicky” or using the friendly Russian patronymic: Nikita Sergeivitch?
Of course not. That is because Kennedy respected himself and his adversaries. There used to be presidents like that. But some Israelis, especially those like Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni do not really respect or understand Abbas and his colleagues.
“Oh, he does not really mean it,” one hears them saying over and over, again and again. That is what they said about Arafat until he started his wars. Now they say it about Abbas, even though he has violated treaties with Israel many times.
This scenario has played out many times before. Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Shlomo Ben-Ami, and Tzipi Livni all believed they had worked out deals with Palestinian “moderates” like Abbas or Yasser Abd-Rabbo or Nabil Sha’ath or Ahmad Qreia (also known as Abu ‘Ala), about questions such as settlements and Palestinian refugees.
Every time, the Palestinian “moderate” in question would run back and tell the Arab media that he had made a fool of the Israelis. They would recite on Voice of Palestine radio in Arabic (Sawt Felastin) or some other Arab media outlet that they would only accept a “final resolution” that did the following:
· Allowed all Palestinians “to return to their homes.”
· Turned Jerusalem over to the Arabs.
· Removed all Jews from “Arab lands.”
In the time of the early prophets, a people known as the Philistines controlled some of the coastal areas in what is now Israel, and they tried to impose unilateral disarmament on the Israelites, who were not allowed to carry or make swords.
Some of the PLO leaders occasionally claim that they are connected to the Philistines, and while this is historical and anthropological nonsense, it is interesting that they are using a tactic of the Philistines by getting the Israelis to give up their arms and their assets even before talks begin.
The PLO just got America’s help to force Israel to release convicted Palestinian terrorists – including mass murderers – from jail in order to “start” talks. That won headlines, but will cost lives.
Today the term “Philistine” means someone of superficial nature, like a president or secretary of state who believes in phony Palestinian moderates and gets a real and reliable ally – like Israel – to endanger itself for the sake of a headline.
Israel is entitled to demand a little strategic depth, and it is also right to demand a certain depth of perception from its leaders and from those who claim to be friends.
Dr. Michael Widlanski, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security, and he will be a visiting professor at University of California, Irvine.