If the Mahmoud Abbas was looking to validate President Obama’s view of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, fate had given him the perfect opportunity. The terrorist attack in the old city of Jaffa that took the life of an American tourist not far from where a visiting Vice President Biden was having dinner was a moment when the PA leader could have sent a strong statement to both the world and his own people that the “stabbing intifada” had run its course. He could have seized on the incident as an indication that the murder spree in which individual Palestinians have attempted to randomly murder Jews wherever they could be found was hurting their cause. The fact that the American victim was not Jewish and that Arabs were among those wounded could have served as an excuse to say that such actions deserved the condemnation of the entire Palestinian people.
But that did not happen.
Abbas not only failed to make a statement about the immoral nature of this intifada or that it was counterproductive. He also did not even condemn it. He did offer condolences to Biden about the death of Taylor Force, a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he compounded the failure to condemn by saying that “occupation authorities” have killed 200 Palestinians in recent months without mentioning the fact that almost all of those fatalities were individuals who were engaging in terror attacks or otherwise violently attacking Israeli forces.
Of course, that wasn’t all that was wrong about the Palestinian response to the attack. Official Palestinian Authority television — an entity that is directly controlled by Abbas’s government — called the Jaffa terrorist a “martyr” who earned praise for what they called a “complex operation.” The report also referred to the slain American and the ten people injured in the “operation,” which consisted of the terrorist running along the Jaffa port and the Tel Aviv beach promenade stabbing passers-by, as “settlers.” The social media operated by Abbas’s Fatah Party also called the Jaffa assailant a “hero” and a “martyr.” Nor is this an aberration since the PA has treated all Palestinians who commit terror against Israelis and Jews as martyrs. Abbas also referred to the perpetrator of another Palestinian attack this week as a martyr.
This language is significant because it indicates once again that the government of Abbas, the man President Obama has lauded as a moderate and a champion for peace, not only isn’t willing to condemn terrorism but also thinks of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa beachfront as “occupied territory” inhabited by “settlers.” Though Abbas at times pays lip service to believing in a two-state solution, the reaction to this and other acts of terrorism that occurs in land that is inside the 1967 lines shows that he and the PA think of all of Israel as “occupied” and not just the West Bank or even parts of Jerusalem.
This makes sense when you consider that Abbas has already refused an offer of peace and independence that would have given the Palestinians the state they claim to desire in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem. Moreover, even though President Obama is seeking to lay down a framework for Middle East peace via a United Nations Security Council Resolution that would enshrine those terms in law in a way that would further limit Israel’s negotiating position, Abbas reportedly refused to acquiesce to this very pro-Palestinian plan when Biden presented it to him yesterday.
Why? Because doing so would have also required Abbas to give up on the right of return for the descendants of 1948 Palestinian refugees and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Both conditions remain unacceptable even to Palestinian moderates for the very same reason that PA TV calls Jews in Tel Aviv “settlers.” They won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
To his credit, Biden not only condemned the terror attack but also “the failure to condemn these acts,” a pointed reference to Abbas though he didn’t call him out by name.
But at this point, with the Palestinians apparently committed to a campaign of terror and opposed to even the friendliest efforts by the administration to promote peace, the question is what will Washington do about it?
Will the U.S. end aid to the PA as an organization that aids and abets terror? Will it cease calling on Israel to hand over more territory to a PA that is committed to supporting terrorism? Will it promise to veto any effort at the UN to give them statehood without first making peace with Israel as well as to oppose further efforts by the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders?
The answer to all those questions is no.
That’s because despite all of the evidence that the Palestinians are interested in Israel’s destruction rather than peace, President Obama remains convinced that it is Israel and its government that is the obstacle to ending the conflict.
That’s one of the many fascinating nuggets of information in Jeffrey Goldberg’s wide-ranging interview with the president in The Atlantic. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Obama thinks Netanyahu “could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so.” That’s why Obama, who knew little about the Middle East when he entered the White House, was convinced that peace could be obtained by creating more “daylight” between Israel and the U.S., and it’s what he still thinks today.
Nothing the Palestinians do or say is enough to shake the president of his ignorant assumptions and more than seven years into his presidency, and he shows no sign of learning from his mistakes now.
No doubt Biden was angered by Abbas’s refusal to even pay lip service to what a decent leader ought to do when he met with him, and that’s why there was no joint appearance or statement after their meeting. But the Palestinians don’t care much about that. They are hopeful a French diplomatic initiative will do them more good since it seems geared toward gaining them recognition without having to give up anything in exchange.
But if Biden and his boss are frustrated by Abbas, they need to do more than issue oblique statements. This administration is fond of ginning up conflicts with Netanyahu in which they can accuse the Israelis of insulting the president or even the vice president. But they appear ready to do nothing when Abbas spits in Biden’s face. Action is required to show the Palestinians that they will gain nothing from support for terrorism. But to a president who thinks he knows more about what is good for Israel than the Israelis and who has always refused to concede that it is the Palestinians that don’t want peace, even Abbas’s support for terrorism is not enough to distract him from his grudge against Netanyahu.