Editorial: Heavenly appeals

Abbas's prayer didn't encourage toward moderation.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Incitement” and “a call for genocide” were the labels used by Palestinian politicians to describe the supplications of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his latest Saturday night sermon.
While outlining customs during Rosh Hashana dinner – such as dipping an apple in honey – to petition God for a sweet, successful new year, the nonagenarian halachic authority added a personal prayer: “May our enemies and hate-mongers vanish, Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] and all those evildoers be lost from the world, may God smite them with the plague, them and the Palestinians, evildoers and Israel-haters.”
Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, said in response, “Is this how the Israeli people are preparing for peace with the Palestinians?” It was glaringly disingenuous of Erekat to attempt to transform the intemperate public plea for divine intervention – not a call to action – by an elderly spiritual leader who represents a fraction of public opinion into the definitive stand of the Israeli people, not to mention a call for genocide.
However, Erekat did hit on an important point: How is the Israeli leadership preparing its people for peace with the Palestinians? And by the same token, how is the PA laying the groundwork for peace with Israel? PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu, who rightly distanced himself Sunday from Yosef’s comments, made a major step toward peace back in June 2009 when he broke with Likud’s platform and publicly advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Seen as the only way to keep Israel both Jewish and democratic, a two-state arrangement enjoys broad-based support among Israelis.
While Netanyahu has yet to articulate his vision of final status, he has repeatedly shown a willingness to engage in direct negotiations with the PA without preconditions.
He even took the confidence-building step last November of imposing an unprecedented 10-month construction freeze on new Jewish homes in the West Bank, despite the unpopularity of the move within part of his coalition.
By contrast, Abbas is barely able to justify his consent to participate this week in US-sponsored direct talks with Israel before his public, which is still being fed a relentless diet of Israeli delegitimation in the PA media he controls.
Just last Wednesday in Ramallah, PA security authorities violently stifled a demonstration organized by the National Conference Against Direct Talks, a coalition consisting of hundreds of political factions, organizations, institutions and figures from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The PA president has lost his people’s confidence for the “crime” of caving in to US and Israeli demands to launch direct negotiations without preconditions, after having held out for months for a complete building freeze in both the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a prerequisite for talks. To save face and to assure his people that he would not sell them out, Abbas announced on Sunday that the Palestinians would be entering the talks based on a declaration made in March by the Mideast Quartet calling for a complete building freeze as a first step toward dismantling “occupation.”
A US-funded campaign on PA-controlled TV, radio and billboards to garner support for talks, which ideally should be preparing the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people that has the right to live in peace alongside an autonomous Palestinian state, will instead attempt to justify the PA’s highly unpopular willingness to enter direct negotiations at all.
A BELLWETHER of Palestinian political sentiment was provided on August 19, in a PA-sponsored funeral attended by Abbas and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that glorified Amin al-Hindi, one of the masterminds of the September 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official PA daily, noted that Hindi was “one of the stars who sparkled... at the sports stadium in Munich,” according to Palestinian Media Watch.
At the end of the ceremony, the paper reported, Abbas and others present read the opening sura of the Koran for the “elevation” of Hindi’s “pure soul.”
This prayer for Hindi’s soul, delivered by the political leader of the Palestinians, failed to receive the media coverage enjoyed by Rabbi Yosef’s supplication. Whether it was heartfelt or a necessary bow to the public opinion he has failed to encourage sufficiently toward moderation, the implications of Abbas’s heavenly appeal are almost certainly far more central than that delivered by the Shas leader to the prospects of success in the direct talks.