While we were marking Memorial Day, the most moderate Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, stated that “the Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish State.” Perfect timing for him. This declaration joins previous statements he made in Jordan and Lebanon, saying that “there will never be peace with Israel without resolving the refugee problem,” and that “the Palestinians will never lay down their arms and won’t abandon the armed struggle.”
Mahmoud Abbas has a history of such statements and has displayed significant hatred for Israel. Despite his fatherly and pleasant appearance in his suit, it turns out that he does not want to or cannot change. The Palestinian-Israeli issue is too much for him to handle. In the absence of vision, his leadership is summed up with raising donations from the West, the obsessive believer in Abbas’ ability to create a complete change.
In the past we already saw Arab leaders “changing their tune,” or in a more diplomatic language, “sobering up.” Anwar Sadat despised the Zionist movement and viewed it as a bitter enemy. He felt so threatened by it that during World War II he joined a Nazi underground organization in the hopes of eliminating the Jews. Later on, as the president of the Republic of Egypt, he pledged “a wild and brutal battle where we shall agree to sacrifice a million victims” in order to eliminate Israel. In October 1973, he indeed took the path of war. However, after the war Sadat was able to “change his tune” and talk peace. He became the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and paid with his life.
The Palestinians, by the way, cursed him shamelessly, and referred to him as a “Sudanese slave” in protest of the unilateral peace treaty he signed. They will never forgive Egypt for renouncing the principles of the Arab nation – peace without resolving the Palestinian problem, without bringing the refugees back, and without liberating Jerusalem.
King Hussein, as it turned out after British archive documents were published, ordered his forces on May 25th and 26th in 1967 that any place to be occupied during the upcoming war (the Six-Day War) should see all its Israeli residents massacred. Indeed, Hussein’s hatred for Zionism and for Israel was clear. We must admit that the Hashemite king came a long way from issuing the terrible orders to butcher Jews to the signing of the peace treaty with Yitzhak Rabin in 1994, and later to kneeling as he offered his apologies to the families of the seven girls from Beit Shemesh who were murdered by a Jordanian soldier in 1997.
The Palestinians also have a score to settle with the Hashemite royal house, particularly since the killing of thousands of their people in “Black September” in 1970, and also as result of other actions by Hussein and his grandpa Abdullah against their people. Hussein also deeply hurt the Palestinians by signing a separate deal with us.
All or nothing
For many years, Syria served as a model for hatred and cruelty towards Israel and the Jews. We all remember the way the Syrians treated Israeli captives. However, some say that territorial compromise would prompt their leader Bashar Assad to sign a peace agreement with us, as the Egyptians and Jordanians did. Should that happen, the Palestinian attitude to the Syrians will be no different than their attitude to the Egyptians and Jordanians.
So why did this “work” with the Egyptians, Jordanians, and possibly with the Syrians, yet it’s not happening with the Palestinians? Apparently, it’s not going to work with them, because it appears the Palestinians will never “change their tune.” Yasser Arafat, who started the 1993 Oslo process with the hope that “we have found the Palestinian leader who will embark on a new path” and that “here is a leopard that will change his spots,” contributed greater servings of hatred and venom in his 10 years in office then what we saw in the past.
Several weeks after signing the deal with Rabin, Arafat called for jihad against Israel during a prayer session at a South African mosque. This is the same Arafat who smuggled wanted suspects and upgraded weapons to the Gaza Strip while at the very same time holding meetings in Tel Aviv.
Today, there is no fundamental difference between the Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ Khaled Mashaal. Both of them express the same principles. One of them does it from his fortress in Damascus, while the other does it from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, among other places. There are no two Abbas’, only the real one, just like the real, jihadist Arafat. The privilege granted in the past to Arab leaders to utter radical words for “domestic purposes” is today anachronistic and ridiculous.
Today, we can say that the Palestinian-Israeli issue is too much for Abbas to handle, as it was too much for Arafat to handle. We do not only have a territorial conflict vis-à-vis the Palestinian entity. Indeed, we share a national question whereby most people affected by it, in the region and beyond it, do not believe in compromise, but only in the principle of “all or nothing.” Time and again they publically declare that Israel does not exist in their mind. The old-time Arafat and current-day Abbas are merely a reflection of this public.
Therefore, we do not have too many choices; all we can do is cope with this, and wait for change to come.
Colonel (res.) Moshe Elad served as the head of the security coordination mechanism with the Palestinian Authority in the Oslo Accord period. Today he is a lecturer at the Western Galilee Academic College