Abbas’s speech

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UN General Assembly (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UN General Assembly
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas intended to escalate the tension with Israel when he declared on Wednesday that Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords.
Perhaps his speech was a desperate attempt to gain the attention of a United Nations General Assembly rightly preoccupied with much bigger and more important issues, namely the sectarian bloodbath in Syria that has metastasized throughout the region and has created a major humanitarian crisis for Europe.
Whatever Abbas’s motivation, it is too early to know the operative ramifications of what he said. On the one hand, the Palestinian president was calling on the nations of the world to take punitive actions against Israel as a country that is supposedly illegally occupying another nation.
But, in what can be seen as a positive non-declaration, Abbas stopped short of calling for an end to security and economic cooperation between the PA and Israel. That’s because he understands that an end to such cooperation would lead to the collapse of the PA. And this would be a disaster for the Palestinians, as well as for Israel.
Tens of thousands of PA employees would stop getting paid. Everything from garbage collection to law enforcement would cease to function properly and Hamas and Islamic Jihad would take advantage of the situation.
Therefore, Abbas would like to keep in place the mechanisms that enable him and his Fatah party to remain in power, while at the same time keep the pressure on Israel to meet Palestinian demands.
Abbas is likely to succeed in convincing the international community to up that pressure, but the leaders of the nations of the world should ask themselves whether Israel is the only obstacle to the creation of a democratic and free Palestinian state, as Abbas would have them believe.
Granted, Israel has not kept to the letter of the Oslo Accords in issues ranging from water rights, tax collections and transfer of monies, to settlement building and house demolitions, but it is certainly not a one-way street. And most of the Israeli “infractions” have been a direct result of violations by the Palestinians.
Israel could decide that, like the PA, it is no longer bound by the Oslo agreements as a viable framework, and either take unilateral steps or propose a new tack to move forward.
But at the same time, the Palestinians should ask themselves whether it is Israeli “occupation” that is the source of all of their troubles or whether they play a role as well.
Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip undoubtedly face harsh economic conditions, a lack of political and religious freedom, and brutal repression. But it is not because of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. It is because Hamas, a terrorist organization governed by a distorted and violent interpretation of Islam, imposes its brutal rule.
But apparently, like Hamas, Abbas wants the world to continue to believe that Israeli “restrictions” are to blame for the delays in rebuilding Gaza.
Similarly, Abbas was quiet about how Hamas regularly uses force to disperse Palestinians protesting against power shortages in the southern Gaza Strip. The lack of electricity has triggered widespread protests and many Palestinians hold Hamas directly responsible for the problem.
Eyewitnesses said Hamas police used live ammunition and clubs to disperse protesters.
And Hamas has embarked on a crackdown against Fatah activists in Gaza as Fatah attempt to hold internal elections.
The situation under the PA in the West Bank with regard to human rights is not much better. PA security forces arrest Palestinians almost daily and hold them without trial. The PA arrests Palestinians who criticize the Palestinian leadership on social media.
But Abbas knows that the hypocritical “international community” does not really care when Palestinians repress other Palestinians or when Arabs repress other Arabs. This is part of the reason that only now, after the massacres in Syria have begun to affect Europeans, the “international community” is demanding that something be done to stop the bloodshed.
Abbas is grandstanding in an effort to put the Palestinian issue back in the spotlight, but amid the glare, the facts are a little hard to see. The world should look closely before jumping on the Palestinian bandwagon.