Olmert’s Joke: Abbas Is a Man of Peace
In one of the more bizarre scenes in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, disgraced and formerly jailed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared with Palestinian dictator Mahmoud Abbas at the UN to denounce President Donald Trump’s peace plan. Unbelievably, Olmert sat beside Abbas and called him “a man of peace” who is “opposed to terror” and “willing to negotiate at any given time with the State of Israel.”
Perhaps less surprising was the response of J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, who said the joint appearances “underscore why we must reject the right’s false narrative about a Palestinian people who don’t really want peace — and why we must stand up to those who suggest we simply give up on hopes for a two-state solution.”
I’ve already documented why advocates of the two-state solution ignore reality, but let’s focus on the ahistorical statements made by Olmert and the truths about Abbas that his fan club ignores.
First, a bit of history. Abbas is an antisemite whose Ph.D. dissertation was an exercise in Holocaust denial. He claimed Zionist leaders conspired with the Nazis against the Jews. He argued that fewer than one million Jews perished, but it was “in the interest of the Zionist movement to exaggerate the numbers of those tragically killed in the war for the sake of the [political] profits it received from making the number as large as possible. This was why the number [six million] was established: So [the international community] would feel pangs of conscience and sympathy for Zionism.”
In 2016, Abbas disseminated the blood libel that a group of Israeli rabbis demanded that the government “poison the water of the Palestinians.”
In 2018, he launched into an antisemitic rant calling Israel a “colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness.” He said, “The Jews did not want to emigrate even with murder and slaughter. Even during the Holocaust, they did not emigrate.” He claimed Herzl advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Abbas also dismissed the idea that Jews were massacred because they were Jews, citing books he claimed showed “hostility against Jews is not because of their religion, but rather their social function,” meaning their involvement in banking and money-lending. He also falsely stated that Jews had not been persecuted in the Arab world.
Abbas was one of the PLO’s founding fathers, which means he has been part of the leadership throughout the organization’s long history as a terrorist organization. The idea that he is now opposed to terrorism is belied by the continued incitement from the Palestinian Authority, Abbas’ unwillingness to condemn Hamas attacks on Israelis, and the ongoing terror emanating from the West Bank. Apologists ignore the stabbings, shootings, and other incidents and probably are not even aware the Shin Bet foiled more than 450 attacks last year.
In 1995, Abbas reached an agreement with Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin to establish the capital of a future Palestinian state on the outskirts of Jerusalem in Abu Dis — and, soon after, the Palestinians erected a parliament building there which still stands. Abbas is now outraged by the Trump proposal for a Palestinian state with its capital in Abu Dis.
In 2005, when Ariel Sharon ordered the evacuation of all Israeli civilian and military personnel from the Gaza Strip, Abbas had an opportunity to support the “end of occupation” and begin building the infrastructure of a state. Instead, he emphatically opposed the withdrawal, preferring “occupation” to a step towards independence. Two-staters continue to ignore the inconvenient truth that Israel got terror instead of peace for the disengagement, and advocate that Israel concede more land to Abbas.
Despite the experience of Gaza, Olmert did offer to make concessions. In 2008, Olmert held more than 30 meetings with Abbas, the Palestinian man of peace, offering to withdraw from approximately 94% of the West Bank, the creation of a passage from the West Bank to Gaza, and a land swap that would allow Israel to annex its major settlement blocs. Olmert even proposed to divide Jerusalem and absorb a few thousand Palestinian refugees.
Condoleezza Rice called the offer “amazing” and warned that “Yitzhak Rabin had been killed for offering far less.” The usually pro-Palestinian Haaretz newspaper noted, “Aficionados of the Palestinians again found a million and one reasons why the peace-loving Palestinian leader had refused the offer.” Ben-Ami, one of those aficionados, inventively claims they “came closer to achieving a genuine, viable two-state solution than any leaders before them.” Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Next came the most pro-Palestinian administration in US history, with Barack Obama pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute a 10-month settlement freeze even though the Palestinians had never made this demand. Abbas still refused to negotiate.
In 2011, Abbas attempted to bypass negotiations by requesting that the United Nations recognize the independence of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. That too failed.
In another propaganda stunt, Abbas stated in April 2016 that he was willing to meet with Netanyahu for peace talks. Netanyahu said he was willing to meet at any time. Two days later, the Palestinians rejected Netanyahu’s offer.
Abbas, meanwhile, said he hoped the Obama administration would force Netanyahu out of office and declared his willingness to wait years until that happened. True to his word, Abbas has now boycotted peace talks with Israel’s leader for 12 years.
In another expression of his attitude toward coexistence, Abbas has repeatedly said, “We will never recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel.”
Abbas has also said, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands.” Maybe Ben-Ami will be happy with a judenrein Palestinian state, but can you imagine his reaction if Arabs were banned from Israel?
The same people who lambaste Netanyahu for being “anti-democratic” extol the virtues of a corrupt autocrat, who denies his people civil and human rights, who is now in the 15th year of a four-year term as president, and who a majority of Palestinians want to resign.
Two-staters are not only out of touch with the majority of Israelis who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, but the latest poll shows that 59% of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution. And, of course, Hamas openly calls for Israel’s destruction.
Obama, the UN, and the EU raised Palestinian hopes that Israel could be forced to capitulate to their demands. Trump threw a wrench into those expectations, but Ben-Ami, some Democratic presidential candidates, and other ostriches are trying to reassure the Palestinians there is still hope, a grave disservice that only ensures they will remain frustrated and see the size of any possible state continue to shrink.
Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library.