THE Palestinian President has prompted outrage, by calling Israel a “colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness.”
In a biting speech on Sunday, during which he also declared the Oslo Accords dead and berated Donald Trump, Mahmoud Abbas said: “The Jews were used as a tool under the concept of the promised land – call it whatever you want. Everything has been made up.”
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who maintains open channels with Abbas and tends to adopt a calm tone, was livid. “What we heard yesterday from Mahmoud Abbas, was terrible,” Rivlin said on Monday, suggesting that he was returning to his more extremist positions of the past.
“He returned back to the ideas he expressed decades ago, when they were no less terrible. To say Israel is the result of a Western conspiracy to settle Jews in land belonging to Arab populations? To say that that the Jewish people has no connection with the land of Israel?
“He forgot many things, and said exactly the things that led him to be accused years ago of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.”
Rivlin said that Abbas’ comments are “precisely the things that block us.”
He “knows very well that the Koran itself recognises the land of Israel as our land. Without this basic recognition we will not be able to build trust and move forward.”
In the Diaspora, Jewish leaders have echoed Rivlin’s dismay at Abbas’ harsh words – but one prominent American-Jewish organisation, the dovish J Street, blamed Trump.
It criticised Abbas’s comments, but said that the “speech – and the undercutting of America’s role as a mediator in this conflict – would not have come about if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
Abbas has already declared that he doesn’t think the US is an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians after Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month – and said he’ll boycott any US-led peace efforts. In his speech, which was delivered to Palestinian politicians, he went even further in his anti-US offensive.
“The deal of the century is the slap of the century,” he said, referring to Trump’s plans for a peace initiative, and also got personal against the US President, with a curse popular in the West Bank: “May your house be demolished.”
The Palestinians will reject Trump’s initiative because they won’t be “stung twice,” and suggested that they will “get back” at the Americans.
He confirmed that the peace plan is expected to offer Palestinians the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Abu Dis as their capital – which is unacceptable to most Palestinians who expect a large part, if not all, of Jerusalem.
In Abbas’s most hard-hitting declaration he said that the Oslo Accords – the outcome of the 1990s peace process between Israel and the Palestinians which are meant to pave the way for a peace deal – have been “killed” by Israel.
He said: “Israel has killed Oslo. It has terminated Oslo. Now we are an authority without any authority, an occupation without land, and we will not accept this.”
Based on this logic, he instructed the PLO’s Central Committee to “revise all the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.”
However, he did not rescind the PLO’s recognition of Israel or promise to end security cooperation with Jerusalem – which was a solace to the Israeli peace camp.
“The biggest concern we should all have is keeping a lid on increasing violence, and this seems to be happening,” the veteran Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin told The AJN.
Baskin considered the speech more a “cry of despair” than a clear policy statement.
But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he does take the speech seriously – as a statement of what Abbas’ true positions have been for a long time, even when he was claiming that he subscribes to a more conciliatory platform.
“He has revealed the truth,” Netanyahu claimed. “He has torn off the mask and shown to the public the simple truth that I have been working to instil for many long years: The root of the conflict between us and the Palestinians is their steadfast refusal to recognise the Jewish state in any borders whatsoever.”