Abbas' real motives in the Abu Akleh investigation - opinion

Abbas' outcry about Abu Akleh has less to do with a broken heart on her behalf than it does with the desire to exploit her death for his political purposes.

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves to people as he bids farewell to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during a live fire exchange in Jenin, in Ramallah in the West Bank May 12, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves to people as he bids farewell to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during a live fire exchange in Jenin, in Ramallah in the West Bank May 12, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

The latest excuse for rage in the Palestinian Authority was the announcement on Monday that the ballistic test on the bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was inconclusive.

As soon as the State Department spokesman, Ned Price, issued a release to this effect and pointed to the bullet’s having been too damaged to discern its origin, even the caveat that “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for [her] death” was not sufficient for PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

From the moment that Abu Akleh tragically lost her life during an Israeli raid in Jenin on May 11, Abbas and his many apologists in the international media have been determined to prove that the 51-year-old veteran Arabic-language broadcaster was assassinated.

Abbas repeatedly referred to the incident as a murder and anti-Israel activists happily went along with the absurd accusation. To make matters even more ludicrous, op-eds everywhere took the opportunity to rant about freedom of the press, as though Akleh, a resident of east Jerusalem with American citizenship, had been targeted for her profession.

What were Israeli forces doing in Jenin?

  Palestinians bid farewell to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during a live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF in Jenin, in Ramallah in the West Bank May 12, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN) Palestinians bid farewell to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during a live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF in Jenin, in Ramallah in the West Bank May 12, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

SUDDENLY, THE reason for the Israeli operation in Jenin, a terrorist hotbed and haven, became a footnote in the story, which is just what Abbas wanted. Evidence that he had no interest in finding out the truth lay in his refusal to conduct a joint investigation with Israel, despite the latter’s serious request to do so.

He certainly didn’t want a probe to reveal that Akleh was shot by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists, as this would have robbed him of the most trusted weapon in his arsenal: victimization at the hands of the “Zionist occupiers.” Nor would an assertion that it was an IDF bullet have satisfied him, since he knew full well that Akleh was caught in a crossfire – regardless of the source – not purposely targeted by Israeli forces.

For this reason, when Price’s statement included a clause about the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) finding “no reason to believe that [he killing] was intentional,” the PA exhibited its usual rejectionism.

As Khaled Abu Toameh reported in the wake of the above, the PA Public Prosecution promptly reacted with dismay.

“This [determination] is not true and we are surprised by [the US statement]. The technical reports we have confirm that the condition of the projectile can be matched with the weapon used, in addition to the fact that the targeting of the martyr Abu Akleh, according to the evidence and conclusive evidence, was deliberate.”

This made a mockery of the last part of Price’s statement, which reads: “The United States appreciates and continues to encourage cooperation between Israel and the PA in this important case. We will remain engaged with Israel and the PA on next steps and urge accountability. We again offer our deepest condolences to the Abu Akleh family.”

Price’s boss at Foggy Bottom, like the rest of the administration in Washington, still doesn’t grasp that nothing short of total appeasement of and capitulation to Palestinian histrionics will cause the PA to appreciate what great friends it has in DC these days. Or perhaps Secretary of State Antony Blinken is simply disappointed that the USSC was unable to give Abbas the right answer, as CNN did weeks ago, when it boasted about its own investigation, ostensibly revealing nefarious IDF behavior.

INDEED, THE only conclusion acceptable to the PA is that IDF forces purposely shot Abu Akleh – something that Abbas himself knows full well is false, regardless of how the bullet landed in her head.

This isn’t the only irony relating to Ramallah, however. Another is the disgusted response of many Palestinians to Abbas for trusting the US to examine the bullet in the first place.

In other words, the PA leader is being blamed for permitting America to have any role in the probe whatsoever. Their thinking is that if he had remained steadfast with his original refusal to allow outside eyes on the projectile, Israel would be held accountable for perpetrating a heinous act on an innocent member of the media.

For them, his refutation of the USSC’s ruling was as irrelevant as it was too little, too late. Naturally, Abbas was furious with the Americans for humiliating him in front of an already hostile public desperate for him to be replaced.

“The Biden administration deceived us,” a senior PA official quoted by Abu Toameh said. “We thought they were going to hold an independent and professional investigation. Instead, they fully endorsed the Israeli narrative.”

According to Abu Toameh, the episode is spurring talk in Ramallah of a serious crisis with the US, which could cast a pall on President Joe Biden’s visit to the region next week, when he is slated to meet with Abbas. Some are calling on the PA chief to cancel the powwow altogether.

Among these are Palestinians who accuse him and his henchmen of having “sold the blood of martyr Shireen Abu Akleh,” in exchange for such a get-together. Then there are others who see PA anger at Team Biden as leverage.

Abbas can now resort to his default posture: a mixture of self-pity and bravado. In this instance, doing so involves whining to the administration that if doesn’t make good on its many promises, Hamas will be strengthened, while pretending to be tough and on a par with the world’s most prominent leader.

This act didn’t work when he tried it on former president Donald Trump. But Biden hails from the days of Trump’s predecessor, former president Barack “lead from behind” Obama, whose secretary of state, John Kerry, earned many frequent-flier miles taking a knee to Abbas – when he wasn’t bending down before his counterpart in Tehran, that is.

It’s a wonder that Price was able, without gagging, to write the bit about “appreciate[ing] and continu[ing] to encourage cooperation between Israel and the PA in this important case.” He knows that the PA never agreed, despite Israeli pleas, to cooperate on this matter.

NOR WOULD it be farfetched to believe that the bullet eventually handed over to the US was not the one extracted from Abu Akleh. The PA leadership lies about everything else, after all, especially when it comes to Israel.

Not that this alters the tall tale about Abu Akleh that Israel-bashers are quick to affirm and repeat. Again, it’s one that even Abbas recognizes to be ridiculous.

Abbas' relationship with his constituents

The PA populace, on the other hand, has good reason to buy the blood libels that he feeds them daily, from the time that they’re born. Apparently, he didn’t figure that this would come back to bite him in the form of a widespread desire to side with his rivals in Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In this respect, Jenin is as much of a challenge for him as Gaza, which is why his outcry about Abu Akleh has less to do with a broken heart on her behalf than it does with the desire to exploit her death for his political purposes.

Which brings us back to Jenin, the site of the stray bullet that has been the focus of endless attention at home and abroad. As Palestinian Media watch reported on Wednesday, the West Bank city’s district governor, Akram Rajoub, declared last month at a conference, “The Palestinian narrative that needs to be sown in the minds of our children in all fields, in economy, culture, heritage, struggle and in raising the flag is: ‘Palestine for the Palestinians.’ Yes, Palestine for the Palestinians. From the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea. Yes! From the river to the sea. Your national responsibility is to pass this from generation to generation to our children: That Palestine belongs to the Palestinians from the river to the sea... We agreed to the 1967 borders, to establish our state in them, but in our minds and in the minds of our [future] generations, it needs to be established that Palestine [from the river to the sea] belongs to the Palestinians.”

As the story of Abu Akleh illustrates, the effort has been successful.