Following recent statements of by Israeli leaders and politicians supporting Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as a “worthy leader of the Palestinians, who seeks peace with Israel and opposes terror,” it is perhaps time to ask ourselves if indeed he is such a reliable, credible and worthy peace partner.
Does he have the authority and standing to commit the Palestinians to international obligations vis-a-vis Israel and the rest of the international community, and of instilling trust among the Israeli public, as well as among his own Palestinian public? Does he have the practical capability of fulfilling such obligations and of ensuring that the civil and military authorities under his jurisdiction would indeed accede to his authority? Does he have any authority or credibility vis-à-vis the population and the Hamas leadership of the Gaza Strip? In seeking to answer these questions it is perhaps pertinent to review his performance as leader and representative of at least part of the Palestinians, living in the West Bank areas, as well as spokesman for all Palestinians both in the United Nations and within the international community in general.
Take for instance his public statements to the international community in the UN General Assembly in November 2012 and 2013, where, in speeches replete with hatred, deceit, aggression, incitement and demagogy, he deliberately and unabashedly misled the international community, accusing Israel of: • “Intending to extinguish [Palestinian] being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence.”
• Throwing the Palestinians “from their beautiful, embracing, prosperous country to refugee camps in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history.”
• Accusing Israel of “barbaric and horrific” attacks in the Gaza Strip, while totally ignoring the Hamas rocket attacks that brought about Israel’s need to response.
• Representing Israel’s occupation as “synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement.”
At the same time, Abu Mazen tried to deceive his listeners into believing that he alone is: • “Trying to breathe new life into the negotiations” and “setting a solid foundation for it,” and • Reaffirming that “Palestine will always adhere to and respect the Charter and resolutions of the United Nations and international humanitarian law, uphold equality, guarantee civil liberties, uphold the rule of law, promote democracy and pluralism, and uphold and protect the rights of women.”
These past weeks the world witnessed just how committed Abu Mazen is to peace. On March 17, he refused to support the US draft framework for negotiations during a meeting with President Obama. A week later he declared to the Arab League in Kuwait that he would not even discuss recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People. Finally, on April 1, he signed requests to become party to 15 international conventions, contrary to commitments he had given that he would not do so, and in stark violation of PLO obligations pursuant to the Oslo Accords.
How can anyone really believe, or elude themselves that a Palestinian leader who accuses Israel of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, racism and hatred, who has no qualms about blatantly deceiving and lying to the international community, who willfully and deliberately ignores those obligations undertaken by the Palestinians in agreements with Israel to prevent terror and violence and to solve all outstanding issues through negotiations, could possibly be a worthy partner for negotiation? Abu Mazen’s new/old fad is to threaten repeatedly that he’ll invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to his Ramallah Palestinian Authority headquarters in order to “transfer to him the keys to the Palestinian Authority.”
Regrettably and surprisingly, several senior members Israel’s Knesset and political parties, as well as the Israeli media, view this threat seriously every time that Abu Mazen voices it. Some have even made well-publicized pilgrimages to Abu Mazen to plead with him not to give up the keys.
The threat is nothing more than demagogy, similar to Abu Mazen’s oft-repeated threats to initiate charges against Israeli leaders and officers with the International Criminal Court.
Legally, if Abu Mazen as the “ra’is” of the Palestinian Authority, genuinely feels that he has failed to lead the Palestinian people to peaceful coexistence with Israel, as foreseen by the Oslo Accords, under which the Palestinian authority was established and functions, then logically, pursuant to the same accords, he should indeed hand over his keys, but to the PLO , the body that signed the agreements with Israel and that appointed him ra’is of the Palestinian Authority as well as chairman of the PLO itself.
Thus, rather than playing demagogic games and issuing empty threats, he can resign his post and open up the stage for elections.
Alan Baker served as the legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and as ambassador to Canada. He participated in the peace process negotiations with the Palestinians and Israel’s other neighbors. He is presently director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, as well as director of the International Action Division of the Legal Forum for Israel.