For the past decade, ever since Mahmoud Abbas took the reins of the Palestinian Authority in January 2005, the international community has gone out of its way to portray him as a moderate.
Ignoring his long record of anti-Israel incitement and Holocaust denial, American presidents, European prime ministers and even various Israeli leaders often spoke of Abbas in glowing terms, describing him as a man of peace and a visionary.
Indeed, earlier this year, when Abbas visited the White House on March 17, US President Barack Obama told reporters, “I have to commend President Abbas. He has been somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side, in peace and security.”
More recently, at the Gaza donor conference held in Cairo on October 12, US Secretary of State John Kerry went out of his way to heap praise on the Palestinian leader, saying, “President Abbas, thank you for your perseverance and your partnership.”
But the jig is up. Abbas’ behavior, along with his recent anti-Israel remarks, clearly demonstrates that his ostensible moderation is nothing more than a hoax.
Calling Abbas a moderate is the diplomatic equivalent of asserting that Elvis isn’t dead, the Boogeyman is hiding under your bed, and Keeping up with the Kardashians is quality entertainment.
Take for example Abbas’ decidedly immoderate remarks last Friday to a Fatah Party gathering.
Referring to Jews who wish to visit Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, Abbas denounced them as “herds of cattle” and “settlers,” and called on Palestinians to use “any means” to stop them.
“It is not enough to say the settlers came, but they must be barred from entering the compound by any means,” he said, adding, “This is our Aqsa... and they have no right to enter it and desecrate it” – as if the very presence of Jewish visitors in the area constituted an abomination.
If that’s not a call to violence, what is? Needless to say, Abbas’ scandalous outburst did not fall on deaf ears. Less than 48 hours later, Palestinian hoodlums defaced the Temple Mount, spray-painting swastikas and other offensive anti-Semitic imagery at the site whose sanctity they claim they wish to protect.
In response to the Palestinian chairman’s remarks, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman rightly pointed out that Abbas was “trying to inflame the situation by using the most sensitive place, the Temple Mount.”
“Behind his [Abbas’] suit and the pleasantries aimed at the international community,” Liberman said, “he ramps up incitement against Israel and the Jews and calls for a religious war.”
“Abbas,” he added, “has effectively joined the front lines of extremist Islamist organizations such as Islamic State and the al-Nusra front which sanctify religious war.”
Before you start rolling your eyes at the comparison, bear in mind that Abbas forged a unity government earlier this year with Hamas, a jihadist terrorist organization that is no less extreme in its ideology and methods.
The Palestinian leader continues to head a government that incorporates the same organization that fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the summer and built tunnels with which to murder innocent civilians.
And then of course there was Abbas’ performance at the UN last month, where he delivered a hateful diatribe against Israel in the hall of General Assembly.
The purportedly reasonable Abbas decried the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 as an act of “historic injustice,” referred to Israel as “the racist occupying state” and accused it of committing “war crimes,” “genocide” and “terrorism” against Palestinians.
All this from a man who has repeatedly insisted that if a Palestinian state were ever to arise, no Jews would be allowed to live in it.
It is time for Israel and the West to stop deluding themselves regarding the true nature of Mahmoud Abbas.
Calling him a moderate is simply dishonest and deceptive. Abbas is not a friend of peace, he is an enemy of Israel, one who has refused to end the conflict and has incited to violence against the Jewish state.
He may not don the keffiyeh that was worn by Yasser Arafat, nor wave a gun in the halls of the United Nations. But even if the packaging is slightly different, the contents remain the same.
Abbas, like his predecessor, stands in the way of peace and aims to do Israel harm.
The time has come to treat him accordingly.