Israel’s ill-fated powwows with the Palestinian Authority

No wonder Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is keeping quiet about his meeting with the P.A. “minister” in charge of civil affairs.

Members of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades take part in a protest against the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Aug. 22, 2020. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Members of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades take part in a protest against the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Aug. 22, 2020. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid didn’t boast on social media about his meeting on Sunday with Palestinian Authority honcho Hussein al-Sheikh. The latter did so immediately, however.

“I met this evening with … Lapid, and we discussed several political and bilateral issues,” tweeted al-Sheikh, head of the P.A.’s “General Authority of Civil Affairs” and member of the Fatah Central Committee. “I have highlighted the need for a political horizon between the two parties based on international legitimacy.”

The last two words of the post reveal just what kind of “political and bilateral issues” were the focus of the talk between the powerful figure considered a possible successor to P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas and the man slated to replace Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett next year. The false P.A. claim and commonly heard mantra that Israel violates international law as an “occupying power”—chanted in anti-Zionist circles around the world—is nothing new.

Nor is the often-obfuscated fact that it’s not only Hamas that refers to the illegitimacy of the Jewish state within any borders.

Speaking of which, Abbas prefaced his address to the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly three months ago by stating: “This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the nakba,” the so-called “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948.

The opening reference merely scratched the surface of the rest of his hate-filled speech, in which he reiterated, among other lies and threats, that “this colonial regime [Israel] has established on our land will disappear, regardless of how long it takes. We will not allow them to hijack our lives and kill our people’s dreams, hopes and aspirations to realize freedom and independence.”

This is the same Abbas who was hosted on Dec. 28 by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, and presented with all kinds of “economic and civilian” goodies aimed at what Gantz called “deepening security coordination and preventing terror and violence for the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The laughable description of what went on during the get-together, in which al-Sheikh participated, was a euphemism for attempting to placate the terrorism-inciting P.A. through ill-deserved benefits of the sort that have never achieved Israel’s desired goal. On the contrary, they’ve only served to strengthen Abbas’s resolve to take advantage of Israeli weakness to step up pressure in the form of violence and appeals to the international community to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The current government in Jerusalem—made up of a strong left-wing contingent and the Islamist United Arab List (Ra’am)—clearly doesn’t see it that way. Those members of the coalition who used to know better, such as Bennett himself, are engaged in an effort to preserve their rule, on the one hand, and appease the administration in Washington, on the other.

While sharply criticized by right-wing oppositionists for kowtowing to Abbas, Gantz received warm accolades from the United States.

“So excited to see [the Israeli] defense minister … host P.A. President Abbas at his home last night,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted on Dec. 29. “May this meaningful diplomacy lead to many more such confidence-building measures for the New Year. It benefits us all!”

The ostensible “meaningful diplomacy” in question certainly benefited the P.A., to which Gantz promised various tax perks; a NIS 100 million ($32.2 million) loan; more than 1,000 permits for Palestinian businessmen entering Israel by car; dozens of VIP permits for P.A. officials; and the legalization of the status of 9,500 undocumented Palestinians and foreign nationals living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

The above “confidence-building measures” were in addition to the 500-million-shekel ($160 million) “loan” that Gantz vowed to provide the P.A. after convening with Abbas in Ramallah at the end of August.

One shudders to imagine what enticing packages Lapid offered al-Sheikh. No wonder his office has declined thus far to comment on the matter—or respond to questions about why he and his coalition partners are working so hard to help the P.A., which hasn’t even pretended to cease bolstering its “pay-for-slay” program with “every last penny” it receives.

Anyone entertaining the notion that Ramallah is turning over a new leaf to welcome cooperation with Israel based on mutual interests is delusional. Indeed, as the research organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) revealed on Thursday, less than a week before Lapid had his powwow with al-Sheikh, the “Fatah Commission of Information and Culture” posted a video on Facebook in which a P.A.-directed narrator is threatening Israel with severe consequences if Palestinian terrorist Nasser Abu Hmeid isn’t granted an early release from prison.

As PMW reported, Abu Hmeid, a former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (Fatah’s “military wing”) is serving seven life sentences and an additional 50 years for his part in the killing of seven innocent Israelis during the Palestinian suicide-bombing war, otherwise known as the Second Intifada, in 2000-02.

Currently being treated in an Israeli hospital for lung cancer, Abu Hmeid is held up by the P.A. as a symbol of Zionist abuse. In the clip, Fatah vows retribution.

“Armed people, get ready and prepare the rifles,” it declares. “The battle is with the settlers, the army and the Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet]. If Nasser [Abu Hmeid] goes, a revolution will ignite in the land. We’ll declare war and march, just as you marched. Warning! A warning from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ [Brigades]! Yes, this is a threat: You have experienced a few bullets, and our rifles are lethal.”

The paragons of peace fail to mention how long their hero would last if removed from Israeli medical care. But that’s secondary to their using him as yet another excuse to spill Jewish blood.

If catering to such voices is how Lapid is paving the way to his premiership—scheduled to begin in August 2023 if the government survives and the rotation agreement comes to fruition—heaven help Israel.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ “

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