“If anyone deserves to be given a chance, this is the guy.”
So declared Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, referring to PA Chair Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), in an address just this past Friday.
Abbas has been working hard to lend just that impression and he certainly seems to be succeeding. But precisely what does he “deserve?” Does this ostensible moderate truly seek the cessation of violence and genuine peace? Does he accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state?
More than 11 years ago now, on September 13, 1993, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO, shook the hand of a reluctant Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as the Declaration of Principles was signed on the White House lawn. A culmination of the negotiations in Oslo, the Declaration called for putting an end to “decades of confrontation and conflict” and stated that the parties would “strive to live in peaceful coexistence.”
Within 24 hours Arafat had gone on Jordan TV and explained his position (in Arabic) with remarkable candor:
“Since we cannot defeat Israel in war; we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel,” he said.
At the end of 1995, a formal pact was established between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Signed in the names of Yasser Arafat and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, it called on the PA to “cease all preventative security.” That is, in flagrant violation of Oslo agreements, the PA was agreeing to look the other way as Hamas continued terrorist attacks, and in fact viewed such terrorist acts – from which it publicly disassociated itself – as a means of pushing Israel harder in negotiations.
In the summer of 2002, well after Oslo had collapsed, Dennis Ross, who had been President Clinton’s special envoy in the Middle East, addressed this approach when he wrote about Arafat’s tactics in Foreign Affairs:
“Not withstanding his commitment to renounce violence, he has never relinquished the terror card,” Ross said.
Now we see Mahmoud Abbas standing in Yasser Arafat’s stead. Far more polished than Arafat ever was, certainly a good deal less abrasive, and likely considerably smarter, Abbas chooses to be seen as his antithesis – a new, moderate leader for a new time. Arafat was so deeply detested in so many quarters that it’s not hard for Abbas to project this persona successfully. Worn down by the need to cope with Arafat, people are ready to embrace someone new. The current euphoria, the expressed hope that we may be on the cusp of peace, would not be possible without a vision of Abbas as the man of the hour.
Abbas understands that Arafat’s belligerent style had become counterproductive and that terror attacks were not working to further Palestinian interests. Thus he is eager to project that appearance of moderation, and to bring to the area a period of “quietness.” There is no question about this. But at the end of the day he was Arafat’s buddy – someone who shared goals and values with him. At the end of the day Abbas has no more intention of relinquishing that terror card than Arafat did.
Born in S’fat in 1935, he fled to Syria with his family in 1948. By the mid-50s he had landed in Kuwait, where he hooked up with Arafat and helped to found Fatah – which, it should be noted, still advocates “liberation” of the entire land. As Arafat moved about over the years, Abbas went with him – to Jordan (where he became involved with the PLO when Fatah gained ascendancy in that group), to Lebanon and to Tunis.
For many years, Abbas was Arafat’s deputy, his protégé and his constant companion:
“He was party to the plan to take Israel in stages. A formal PLO resolution outlining this strategy, called the ‘Phased Plan,’ was adopted in 1974,” according to Arafat was referring to after the Oslo signing.
He was privy to the advice from North Vietnamese revolutionaries that the PLO should conceal its true intent and appear flexible. In fact, Fatah had the works of the North Vietnamese General Giap translated into Arabic.
He was cognizant of, if not deeply involved in, decisions to formally ally the PA with Hamas.
And, it must be added, he was the signatory on behalf of the PLO for the Declaration of Principles. While Arafat shook hands, it was Abbas who penned his name. Quite clearly, he was privy to Arafat’s declaration a day later – which is to say, privy to the lack of sincerity that accompanied the show on the White House lawn to which he had lent his name. He has been partner to it all.
At one point in his career, Abbas went to Oriental College in Moscow, ostensibly to earn a doctorate in history. His thesis was expanded it into a book, called The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement. In it he explained that:
“[the Zionists gave] permission to every racist in the world, led by Hitler and the Nazis, to treat Jews as they wished, so long as it guaranteed immigration to Palestine…”
He was a Holocaust denier when he wrote that and remains one. In an interview he gave on official Palestinian TV, he charged that the Nazis had no specific plans to murder the Jews.
All indications are, however, that Abbas was in Moscow for a great deal more than academic study. By the 1970s, the Soviet Union had become a prime source of training in terrorism, espionage and indoctrination. It has been noted as more than coincidence that one of the first places Abbas visited after his election was Russia, where he met with President Putin, formerly of the KBG.
Not surprisingly, there is evidence that Abbas has been complicit in terrorism. A couple of years ago a charge surfaced that he was the man who financed the massacre of Israeli athletes in Munich. The charge was made credible because it was leveled by Abu Daoud, the terrorist who planned the operation. More recently (in March 2003 in the Arabic paper Al-Sharq al-Awsat) he has sanctioned the killing of (civilian) Jews outside the Green Line.
Yossi Beilin, the left wing Israeli politician who worked with Abbas, believes that his positions during the Oslo negotiations were actually more extreme than Arafat’s. Beilin says Abbas “was among Arafat’s ‘restrictors’ during the Camp David summit.” And indeed, Abbas lauded Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s offer at Camp David in 2000, saying:
“I do not feel any regret. What we did was the right thing to do. [No opportunity was missed since] the opportunity did not exist…they say ‘we offered 95 percent [of the territory],’ and I ask why not 100 percent.”
He has sustained his uncompromising demand for full return to pre-1967 borders. He is even on record as questioning whether there was really ever a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, saying, “I challenge the assertion. But even if it were true, we do not accept it…”
Coupled with this is his consistent position over the years pushing for the “return” of refugees:
“The refugees…have the right reserved to return to their homeland and every place they have left…this is not only limited to land under the sovereignty of the PA. We demand their return to Jaffa, to Haifa and the other regions they came from.”
Were Israel to accede to the demands of Abbas, she would find herself with indefensible borders, and overrun by hostile population within those borders: She would be facing her own destruction.
Abbas’s present intentions, then, are clear for anyone who is ready to put aside wishful thinking and see that he will give the impression of moderation, and he will disarm people with his spoken commitment to peace. “We have agreed on halting all violent actions against…Israelis wherever they are,” he intoned at the Sharm el-Sheik summit on February 8.”
He will make loud noises about how the terrorists groups must cooperate in achieving quiet – which is in the interest of the Palestinian people. He will dispatch police – whose allegiance is dubious to begin with and who are not truly empowered to take strong action in any event. The “quiet” he stitches together will be a temporary quiet, however, merely consented to voluntarily by groups such as Hamas, who reserve the right to initiate terror again if and as they deem it appropriate.
At no time has Mahmoud Abbas committed to dismantling the terrorist infrastructure. He has made it clear that he will not do battle with the terrorists – who, he has indicated, are his brothers. Nor will he ask them to surrender weapons. Neither has he uttered a word about re-vamping the PA-published textbooks, which do not acknowledge Israel’s legitimate existence and teach yet another generation of Palestinians about “jihad” and “martyrdom.”
Abbas’s immediate goal is withdrawal of the IDF to the pre-Intifada position of 2000. He would follow this with a rush to final status negotiations with Israel. It is nothing short of astonishing how frequently officials of the PA refer to the need to get to these negotiations quickly, when they haven’t met even preliminary obligations under the roadmap. Abbas is clearly counting on the goodwill and impressions of moderation he is generating to lessen the stringency of the international community in requiring him to meet these obligations.
Is it possible that a rush to final status negotiations might bring a lasting peace and a genuine two-state solution? Consider the words of one Sheikh Mudeiris. The Sheikh is in the employ of the Palestinian Authority. He offered a sermon (in Arabic) on official PA TV on February 4. In it, he said:
“We tell you Palestine, we shall return to you, by Allah’s will, We shall return to every village, every town, and every grain of earth which was quenched by the blood of our grandparents…Our willingness to return to the 1967 borders does not mean that we have given up on the land of Palestine. No!…We might be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1967 borders, but we shall not be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1948 borders [i.e., to the situation before Israel existed]… No one on this earth recognizes [our right to] the 1948 borders. Therefore, we shall return to the 1967 borders, but it does not mean that we have given up on Jerusalem and Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, Natanyah…and Tel Aviv… Never. We shall return to every village we had been expelled from, by Allah’s will…Our approval to return to the 1967 borders is not a concession for our other rights. No!… Palestinians will return the way Muhammad returned there, as a conqueror.” (Palestinian Media Watch translation).
These words would not have made it on to PA TV without the sanction of the PA head – Mahmoud Abbas. The PLO “Phased Plan,” you see, is alive and well in the Palestinian Authority headed now by Arafat’s good disciple. His goal is still the eventual destruction of Israel. Arafat would be proud of him.
Arlene Kushner lives and writes in Jerusalem. She had done three major reports on UNRWA for the Center for Near East Policy Research and is the senior investigative reporter for Israel Resource News Agency
FrontPageMagazine.com on February 25, 2005