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Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to extend well-wishes on the occasion of Id al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
He did so despite the fact that Abbas continues to shun negotiations with the Jewish state and again has threatened to pursue a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in September.
Netanyahu’s “goodwill gesture” reportedly was followed by similar phone calls to Abbas by Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Molcho also called PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad.
The calls came on the heels of other goodwill gestures made by Israel over the last few months aimed at coaxing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table; including, but not limited to:
1. The issuance of thousands of additional Israeli work permits to Palestinian laborers;
2. The advance to the PA on the eve of Ramadan of approximately NIS 200 million in levies collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians so that government salaries could be paid;
3. The signing of an economic accord with the PA in order to enhance trade;
4. The signing of a deal to end a hunger strike by Palestinians jailed in Israel, in which Israel even agreed to allow convicted terrorists to pursue academic studies;
5. The tabling of an offer, confirmed by PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe, to release in four stages 125 Palestinian security prisoners, many of whom were convicted of murdering Israelis (the proposal was summarily rejected by Abbas, who demanded the prisoners be released simultaneously);
6. The transfer to the PA of the bodies of approximately 90 deceased terrorists, whose remains subsequently were glorified en masse in official ceremonies.
So the question begs: What exactly have these goodwill gestures achieved?
Answer: Last Tuesday, Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement denying the Jewish People’s historical connection to Jerusalem.
On the 43rd anniversary of an attempt by a non-Jewish Australian—Denis Michael Rohan—to set fire to the al-Aksa mosque, Abbas wrote: “The fire, set by a criminal under the eyes of the Israeli occupation authorities, was the first [attack] in a series aiming to demolish al-Aksa mosque and build thealleged Temple, in order to uproot [Palestinian] citizens, Judaize [the city] and eternalize its occupation.”
He concluded by assuring his target audience that Israel’s actions “will not undermine the fact that [Jerusalem] will forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian.”
In response, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev condemned Abbas’ call for Jerusalem to be “liberated.” He also reaffirmed the 3000-year-old Jewish connection to the city, and stressed that by ignoring Jerusalem’s Jewish heritage the Palestinian president was “ignoring reality.”
Regev then conveyed the Israeli government’s “disappointment.”
In retrospect, however, Regev’s characterization of Abbas’ denial of Jewish history is woefully inaccurate; for Abbas’ revisionism is, in fact, concerted and purposeful, and therefore constitutes an attempt to alter reality.
To this end, Abbas gave two other major international addresses over the past year in which he explicitly denied the Jewish connection to Israel, including Jerusalem.
In February, at the “International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem” in Doha, Qatar, Abbas accused Israel of “using the ugliest and most dangerous means to implement plans to erase and remove the Arab, Islamic and Christian character” of Jerusalem. He also called on non-Jews to visit the “occupied” city in order to show that “Jerusalem is the cause of every Arab, Muslim and Christian.”
The Doha speech was preceded by Abbas’ now-infamous tirade at the UN General Assembly last September, in which he declared: “I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad…and the birthplace of Jesus Christ.”
Abbas omitted any mention of Jewish patriarch Abraham, whose presence in Israel superseded both Jesus’ and that of Muhammad’s descendants, and whose divine connection, indeed claim to the Holy Land is indisputable.
Considering the forgoing, how can we explain the Israeli government’s “disappointment” over an entirely predictable and consistent pattern of behavior? To expect anything different of Abbas suggests that it is in fact Israeli officialdom which is “ignoring reality.”
However, given that Netanyahu has had a front-row seat from which to witness Abbas’ slights of speech, a more logical conclusion is that his administration is deliberately ignoring reality. More specifically, Netanyahu must believe that it serves Israel’s interests to downplay Abbas’ overt hostility towards the Jewish state in order to portray him as a “moderate.” This notion is reinforced by Regev’s description of Abbas’ most recent inversion of history as “the usual domain of extremist elements,” a category of Middle Eastern players from which Regev implies the Palestinian leader is excluded. And if Abbas is not an extremist, then by extension he must be a moderate.
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