Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets Israeli delegation in Ramallah, May 17, 2016.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
What was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas thinking as he addressed the European Parliament last week? Was it about jump-starting the long-suspended peace process? Perhaps declining an EU offer to meet with President Reuven Rivlin, coincidentally in Brussels?
Or perhaps it was about his Soviet doctoral thesis denying the Holocaust and explaining how Hitler was really a Zionist (“The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement”). It must have been along these lines, since Abbas chose to share with the parliamentarians of Europe – the cradle of anti-Semitism – a blood libel straight from the Middle Ages.
Israeli rabbis are ordering their disciples to murder Palestinians, Abbas shamelessly asserted. “Certain rabbis in Israel have said very clearly to their government that our water should be poisoned in order to have Palestinians killed. That is provocation and we are against this sort of call for violence,” he said.
“Our hands are extended with a desire for peace,” Abbas declared, although he went on to contend that Israel has started three wars in the Gaza Strip and killed thousands of his people. Moreover, he claimed, since 1967 Israel has imprisoned more than 1 million Palestinians. Israel has “turned our country into an open-air prison,” Abbas told the EU lawmakers.
Such appalling views are not uncommon in Palestinian society. A Hamas leader in Gaza, Salah al-Bardawil, said in an interview with Hamas TV last November that Jews have “ancient biblical beliefs, which instructed them to kill children and collect their blood, in order to knead it into the bread that is eaten on Passover. Today, they are trying to say that these things never happened, and that it was a joke or a lie, but these are the facts of history. Anyone reading about their history will find this there.”
The Prime Minister’s Office quickly issued a condemnation of Abbas’s remarks: “Someone who refuses to meet the president and prime minister for direct negotiations, and who spreads a blood libel in the European Parliament, is lying when he says his hand is outstretched in peace.”
The PMO said that Abbas had exposed his “true face.
Israel is waiting for the day when Abu Mazen [Abbas] will stop spreading lies and incitement. Until then, Israel will continue to defend itself against Palestinian incitement that causes terrorism.”
Regarding terrorism, the Palestinian leader shared with the Europeans his solution for eradicating the growing plague. The absence of a two-state solution, he said, would give “pretext to those who commit terrorism in the name of religion. Once this occupation ends, those pretexts will disappear and extremism will be over, as will terrorism.
There will be no more terrorism in the Middle East nor elsewhere in the world,” Abbas said.
In the real world of international diplomacy, the Europeans were treated to the back-to-back appearances of both the leader of the would-be Palestinian state – now in the 11th year of his four-year term – and Israel’s head of state.
In contrast to Abbas’s ongoing incitement and escalating anti-Semitism, President Reuven Rivlin expressed amazement that the PA leader had turned down an EU invitation to meet with him.
“On a personal level, I find it strange that President Mahmoud Abbas, my friend Abu Mazen, refused again and again to meet with Israeli leaders,” Rivlin said.
Instead, Abbas “turns again and again to the support of the international community. We can talk. We can talk directly and find a way to build confidence.
“We will not be able to build trust between us if we do not begin to speak directly and to look at what we can do and what can be done and not at what cannot be done,” Rivlin said. “Direct talks are the only possible way to build trust and to resolve the conditions for a peace perspective between Palestinians and Israelis. There are no shortcuts, no detours in the Middle East.”
Rivlin made his remarks at a joint press conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who declined to refer to Abbas’s snubbing of Rivlin and instead endorsed the time-honored principle of face-to-face negotiations.
Israel has consistently called for the Palestinians to resume direct talks, knowing that intermediaries serve only to harden Palestinian positions.
Will the intransigence Abbas shows change the EU’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? After what happened in Brussels last week, it definitely should.