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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Let down, again

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The content and tone of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ address to the General Assembly last Thursday was probably a bit of a disappointment, if not also quite a shock, to the group of prominent American Jewish community leaders who met with the Abbas in New York Sept. 24, three days ahead of his scheduled appearance before the General Assembly.

“Abbas promises to recognize the Jewish link to Israel in his General Assembly speech,” Ha’aretz reported on Sept. 25. 

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Jewish leaders that his UN speech would address showing greater sensitivity to Jewish claims to Israel,” JTA reported after the meeting.

True to form, but not however to his word, this is how Abbas began the substantive part of his speech last week: “Developments over the past year have confirmed what we have persistently drawn attention to and warned of: the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country, Palestine.”

“Racist” established the tone of the remarks. And the proof of purported Israeli racism and malevolence was the overarching objective of his remarks.

As Haviv Rettig Gur of the Times of Israel noted, “Abbas did not take the UN podium in order to return to negotiations. Rather, he used his speech before the United Nations to offer a condemnation of Israel and Israeli policies that sounded more like a legal brief before the International Criminal Court than a diplomatic address or negotiating position.

“And that’s no accident.

“Israel, Abbas said, is an international law-breaker that is ‘permitted to evade accountability and punishment’ despite ‘its violations of international law and covenants.’”

Rettig Gur further pointed out “Abbas described Israel’s ‘illegal’ policies in language taken directly from the texts and discourse of international law.”

In other words, Abbas used the General Assembly podium to meticulously present a one-sided, distorted set of “facts” about a negotiating partner with whom he refuses to negotiate as a precursor to a formal complaint against Israel that the PA plans to bring to the International Criminal Court.

As for showing greater sensitivity to Jewish claims to Israel, the only possible reference in his speech that could fall into that category is the following: “We do not seek to delegitimize an existing state – that is Israel, but rather to assert the state that must be realized – that is Palestine” (emphasis added). Even this pathetic 12-word reference was disingenuous and false, since delegitimizing the existing State of Israel was precisely and entirely the very purpose of his speech to the General Assembly. 

Once again, Abbas has let slip the opportunity to advance his people’s cause and the achievement of peace with Israel.

“Let Israel and the Palestinian Authority begin negotiations right away. With goodwill, we can resolve our differences.” That is what he should have told the world. But that is what he is unable and unwilling to say. Alas.

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