Could his protests over annexation be Mahmoud Abbas’s last whimper?

Abbas is a one-trick pony who keeps himself relevant by pretending that his main mission in life is to obtain Palestinian independence from the "occupation."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 19, 2020 (photo credit: ALAA BADARNEH/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a leadership meeting in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 19, 2020
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas needs new material. Even the flies on the wall at his compound in Ramallah must have yawned on Tuesday night when he announced – for the umpteenth time – that the PA is no longer bound by previous agreements with Israel.
The only twist to his tired mantra was the inclusion of the United States in the chant.
“We hold the American administration fully responsible for the oppression befalling the Palestinian people, and we consider it a primary partner with the Israeli occupation government in all its aggressive and unfair decisions and measures against our people,” he declared to PLO officials summoned to the emergency meeting to listen to his televised rant.
Though the honchos in attendance must have doubted that Abbas was actually going to make good on his threat to halt economic and security cooperation with the Jewish state, they couldn’t have admitted it aloud. In fact, as Khaled Abu Toameh reported on Wednesday, those who dared to inquire about a timetable for the action were warned by Abbas’s aides that if they didn’t shut up, they would be banished from the premises.
The last thing that Abbas wants, after all, is to put his money where his mouth is, except when it comes to funding terrorists. That is one policy he proudly upholds, no matter how often certain countries urge him to stop.
That the administration of US President Donald Trump went as far as to make ending this “pay for slay” practice a condition for statehood – with a democratic government that renounces terrorism, honors human rights and recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jews – made him all the more enamored of his friends in Western Europe. And they of him.
Which brings us to the real reason for his latest diatribe: to remind the so-called international community of his “plight,” and to force Arab leaders to pay lip service to his latest grievance.
Not that it’s a new complaint, of course. No, Abbas is a one-trick pony who keeps himself relevant by pretending that his main mission in life – like that of his predecessor, the late arch-terrorist and PLO chief Yasser Arafat – is to obtain independence for his people from Israel’s “illegal occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza.
Never mind that Jordan occupied the former until Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. Forget that Israel withdrew from the latter in 2005, forcibly evacuating all Jews living there from their homes. In any case, Abbas distorts history to suit his narrative at home and abroad.
Through his tightly controlled media and school curricula, he promotes the idea that the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948 was the original “illegal occupation of Palestine.” Simultaneously a Holocaust-denier and someone who accuses Israel of Nazi-like crimes, he fosters antisemitism in his society. He also glorifies martyrs willing to die in the process of killing Jews on behalf of Allah and the Palestinian cause.
This is all for internal consumption, of course. When addressing foreign audiences, he blames Israel for the lack of peace, skirts the issue of incitement to violence, and only refers to the 1967 borders when discussing Palestinian statehood.
Despite his deceit, Abbas has been rewarded handsomely, not only with massive amounts of cash from around the world, but with help from Israel in the joint effort to keep Hamas at bay. As it happens, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza is just as bent on annihilating Abbas and his Fatah operatives as on wiping out the “Zionist entity.”
It is thus not in his interest to sever security cooperation with Israel, and he knows it. He is also aware that cutting off economic ties would be detrimental to the 100,000 Palestinians employed in the Jewish state, among them, some 30,000 who work in the “settlements” that he and his left-wing champions call “illegal.”
The prospect of an imminent move by the newly sworn-in government in Jerusalem to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Jordan Valley is giving Abbas a panic attack. His hysteria began when Trump assumed office three-and-a-half years ago, and has been mounting ever since. With good reason.
Trump and his team made it clear at the outset that they had no tolerance for Palestinian antics. Their stance from the get-go was that Israel is both the historical homeland of the Jewish people and a modern miracle – a beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East with values that America shares.
Telling Abbas to get with the program or get lost, the American administration proceeded to implement a series of policies that made him blanch.
These included: officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; slashing funds to UNRWA; signing the Taylor Force Act; exiting the Iran nuclear deal; moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; and announcing that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are not “per se inconsistent with international law.”
No tantrum the PA leader threw in response to these actions made the slightest bit of difference. Nor did warnings that all hell would break loose in the Middle East. Regional reactions to each move elicited barely a bark, and no bite.
By the time Trump unveiled his “Peace to Prosperity” plan at the White House in January, Abbas had become as pathetic and weak a figure outside the PA as he long had been within it. Ironically, his outright rejection of the plan, both before and after the publication of its details, exposed his fake aspirations (as if any additional evidence of his duplicity were required).
WHILE ISRAELIS of all persuasions are engaged in a political and ideological debate over elements of the plan – which enables the Jewish state to extend sovereignty over its heartland but also allows for the establishment of a Palestinian state – Abbas is busy igniting another intifada.
And why wouldn’t he be when faced with a document that calls for the empowerment of Palestinians through economic progress and clean governance? Having a state that he doesn’t really want is bad enough. One that is “of the people, by the people and for the people” is his worst nightmare.
This is probably why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no trouble embracing the plan. Experience has taught him two things: One is that Palestinian signatures on peace deals are meaningless; the other is that Trump keeps his promises.
Abbas couldn’t argue there.
His only recourse under the circumstances, then, is to try to stir a commotion – or, in this case, cry wolf – in the hope that Netanyahu’s and Trump’s foes will come running to his rescue. Take Joe Biden, for example, the US Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential contender against Trump in November.
On the very day that Abbas declared all agreements with Israel and America null and void, Biden held a conference call with Jewish donors, during which he said, “Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation, stop settlement activity, because it will choke off any hope of peace.”
If his suggestion that Palestinians “end incitement in the West Bank and rocket attacks in Gaza” caused Abbas any ill ease, it was likely fleeting. A presidential hopeful who creates moral parity between Israel and the PA is a lot better than a president actually in the Oval Office whose compass can’t be manipulated by a terrorist in a tie.
It is not immediately apparent what Abbas hopes to accomplish by making threats that everyone considers empty. If anything, the 84-year-old author of The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and Zionism is setting himself up to go out, not with a bang, but with a whimper.