On the occasion of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Mahmoud Abbas sent a one-line congratulatory note to Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz. It was not heartfelt, as anyone of sense who has followed Abbas’ decades of raging hostility to Jews know full well, but merely designed to show to the credulous Americans – and some credulous Israelis — how the “moderate” Abbas, by offering such seasonal greetings to Israeli Jews, could be seen as a trusted future “partner for peace” with the Jewish state.
But that obvious ploy by Abbas was not comprehended by all the angry Palestinians who denounced his Rosh Hashanah greetings. A report on their hysteria is here: “Palestinians upset that Abbas gave New Year greetings to Herzog, Gantz, Elder of Ziyon, September 29, 2022:
Mahmoud Abbas sent Rosh Hashanah greetings to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and to Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (For some reason, he did not send any such greetings to Prime Minister Yair Lapid.)
Naturally, the Palestinians are upset.
Felesteen quotes angry analysts who are convinced that New Year greetings are yet another sign of how Abbas is collaborating with Israel.
Why are they just now surprised? Abbas has been sending Israelis his best wishes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for at least a decade. Why is there such upset only now about this practice?
So this less-than-ten-word message, congratulating Deputy Minister Gantz and President Herzog on Rosh Hashanah, is supposedly a “sign” of how Abbas is “collaborating” with Israel. Perhaps those analysts haven’t noticed that a half-dozen members of Abbas’ Fatah faction have recently conducted terrorist attacks on Israelis, and instead of denouncing them, Abbas has praised them. What kind of “collaboration is that? Abbas continues his Pay-For-Slay program that rewards past, and incentivizes future, acts of terrorism. He continues to denounce Israel for its own “terrorism,” and at the UN condemned the Jewish state for committing “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinians.” In his speech before the UN General Assembly, Abbas repeated his threat to walk away from all agreements with Israel, which would mean less security cooperation. He also threatened to revoke the PLO and Fatah’s recognition of the State of Israel. And finally, he called “the UN to force Israel to comply with all international resolutions pertaining to the Israel-Arab conflict.”
None of that sounds like “collaboration with Israel” to me.
Politicians believe that the congratulations of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to the leaders of the Israeli occupation on “Jewish holidays and occasions” reflect the extent of the state of political weakness that the PA has reached in front of Israel, and proves that “its president tweets outside the flock.”
President Abbas has been sending similar congratulations on Rosh Hashanah to Israeli leaders at least since 2010; no one raised a ruckus all during that time; it is only this year that his remarks have caused such a stir.
Member of the Future Electoral List, Hatem Shaheen, considered that the PA President’s congratulations to Gantz and Herzog show the state of disregard and humiliation of the rights that the authority has reached, at a time when [according to Shaheen] the occupation is escalating its violations in the occupied territories. Shaheen explained to Felesteen that such a position constitutes an affront to our people and our capabilities, and is completely rejected, because of what our people suffer from Israeli crimes. “Abbas’s congratulations to the leaders of the occupation express a state of weakness, lack of self-esteem and confidence, and a lack of belief that we are able to extract our rights in the future, and it represents begging.”
The New Year’s greeting was an expression neither of weakness, nor of lack of self-esteem, nor was it “an affront” to the Palestinians. It was a purely political calculation that Abbas could present himself as a reasonable fellow, one not consumed with anti-Israel or antisemitic hate (and hoping we may all forget about his “50 Holocausts” remark), ready to send a friendly greeting to Jews on one of their high holy days. See , this proves he really is a “moderate,” besuited, bespectacled, mild-mannered. Would a real antisemite send greetings to Jews? Abbas puts on his little act as a “partner for peace” as he has before, congratulating Israelis both on Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur, but this time the reaction among Palestinians was fury.
Writer and political analyst Khaled Sadiq said: “Abbas’ contact with Gantz and Herzog comes within the framework of the relationship with the occupation, which he is trying to strengthen with the aim of returning to the negotiating table.” He cautioned that “this congratulations encourages the occupation and its leaders to commit more violations and crimes against our people and realize its ambitions, so that the authority appears to be a partner in the tragedies and crimes that the occupation causes against our people, and attempts to change the reality in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Khaled Sadiq is quite wrong. Abbas’ congratulations did not “encourage the ‘occupation”; it did not cause Israel’s leaders “to commit more violations and crimes against our people.” It was, rather, a way to improve Abbas’ image in the outside world, increasing his leverage in any potential negotiations with Israel. Such a gesture will also, Abbas hopes (and I think he’s right in this calculation) win plaudits both from the Bidenites, and among leftist Israelis, always looking for evidence that Abbas is a “moderate” with whom a real peace can be made.
However, Abbas knows that Israel has nothing to offer the authority. Sadiq continued: “The positions of Abbas and the PA do not reflect the will of the Palestinian people, but rather reflect the positions of the personality of the PA president, to maintain his presence at the head of the PA, to please Israel and to return to the path of settlement and achieve personal gains.”
Israel “has nothing to offer the authority”? Nonsense. Of course Israel has something to offer the P.A. Last year Israel helped bail out the P.A.’s floundering economy with two loans worth a total of NIS 600 million (roughly $170 million). Abbas may want to call on Jerusalem again, for another loan. Furthermore, Israel agreed to allow tens of thousands more Palestinians to work in Israel, for a current total of 200,000, of which 180,000 come from the P.A. territories, and 20,000 from Gaza. This program has been a tremendous boost to the PA’s economy. Those workers are paid ten times what they could earn at home, which means more than two billion dollars is pumped into the PA’s economy by those workers. Why wouldn’t Abbas want to send a Rosh Hashanah greeting that would keep him on Israel’s good side (despite such a lapsus as that “fifty Holocausts” remark), and perhaps lead to an increase in the number of Palestinians allowed to work in Israel?
The researcher and writer Magdi Hamayel stressed that the congratulation on Jewish occasions reflects the state of contradiction in the head of the Palestinian Authority. While he calls at the United Nations to protect the Palestinian people from the violations of the occupation, he contacts his leaders [sic] to congratulate them on the arrival of a new Hebrew year. He pointed out that the state of anger among the Palestinian people is supposed to be accompanied by the anger of the presidency and the authority, and to take a political position commensurate with the sacrifices it is making against the occupation, and the president of the authority must be in harmony with the position of the Palestinian street and the revolution in Jenin. Hamayel stressed that “Abbas is still gasping [sic] for the leaders of the occupation and the mirage of the settlement project,” and this will not make him gain anything, as the occupation wants to control all of Palestine.
Abbas regularly sends greetings on other countries’ national holidays; in fact such greetings take up at least half of the press releases from his office.
Abbas has been sending greetings on national holidays to many countries for many years, and to Israel, in particular, at least since 2010. But only now has this practice raised such a fury, possibly because so many people are now enraged with Abbas for other reasons – for his by now well-known corruption (his $400 million family fortune), his mismanagement of the economy, his despotism (he last held elections in 2005, and last year he called for, and then called off, elections), and his murder of his most effective critics (such as Nizar Banat, beaten to death by Abbas’ goons).
Not a single Palestinian political analyst appears to have understood the low cunning behind Abbas’ gesture. He now can “look like a moderate” – he did send Rosh Hashanah greetings to Gantz and Herzog, didn’t he? – while still engaging in the sinister undermining of the Jewish state, just as he has always done?
So, to Magdi Hamayel (researcher and writer), to Khaled Sadiq (writer and political analyst), to Hatem Shaheen (Member of the Future Electoral List), and to all the other Palestinians in an uproar over a ten-word congratulations, most unheartfelt, one word of advice: chillax.