Mahmoud Abbas plays Benny Gantz for a fool

Whatever Israel’s defense minister may have told himself and others about what took place during his latest session with the Palestinian Authority leader, it certainly wasn’t “confidence-building.”

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas heads for a meeting of the P.A. leadership in Ramallah. May 7, 2020. Photo by Flash90.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas heads for a meeting of the P.A. leadership in Ramallah. May 7, 2020. Photo by 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 Defense Minister Benny Gantz must have known that hosting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at his home in Rosh Ha’ayin would arouse the ire of the right. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have cloaked the outcome of his tête-à-tête last Tuesday night with the octogenarian honcho in Ramallah in typically euphemistic language.

Following the meeting, Gantz tweeted that he and Abbas had “discussed the implementation of economic and civilian measures, and emphasized the importance of deepening security coordination and preventing terror and violence—for the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

His office subsequently released the details of a slew of so-called “confidence-building measures,” a phony term suggesting some kind of mutual arrangement that actually means Israeli concessions. These include: VAT, import-tax and excise-duty benefits; 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 benefits are 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.

Despite the left’s fantasy of a return to the misnamed “peace process” that’s been on hold since 2010, the reason for Jerusalem’s unwarranted generosity towards Ramallah over the past few months is that it’s in “Israel’s interest” to keep the financially strapped P.A. from collapsing.

The tragic irony is that one cause of the P.A.’s dire straits is Israel’s deduction of hundreds of millions of shekels from the taxes on Palestinian imports and exports that it collects on behalf of Ramallah. Offering Abbas compensation for this move—aimed, like the Taylor Force Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2018, to coerce the P.A. to cease its “pay-for-slay” policy—is a twisted, back-door reversal of sound Israeli legislation.

Israel’s decision to undermine a measure designed to curb the incentive of Palestinians to kill Jews is counterproductive. In the first place, Abbas’s sole claim to (minimal) popularity stems from his glorification and funding of “martyrdom.”

Secondly, he’s made it abundantly clear that if he had “only a single penny left, it would be paid to families of the martyrs and prisoners.” In other words, while Israel is bent on alleviating the socioeconomic woes of the Palestinians, Abbas wants the cash to maintain his well-oiled murder machine.

Aware that he and his Fatah faction were bound to suffer a stinging defeat by Hamas in the P.A. legislative elections slated for last May, he canceled the vote. Attempting to garner international sympathy for the maneuver, he reverted to his default position of blaming the Jewish state, in this case by claiming that Israel was unjustly forbidding eastern Jerusalem Arabs from casting ballots.

To enlist support among disgruntled members of his populace, he tried to prove that he was just as radical, if not more, than his Hamas rivals. It’s one task that the champion of Jew-killers doesn’t find terribly hard to perform.

This isn’t news to Israelis of any stripe, including those on the far left. The dispute lies in whether or not Abbas has just cause for his violent agenda. You know, due to the “occupation.”

Apologists point to Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, and insist that harmony will reign once Israel withdraws to the pre-war borders. Abbas’s speeches in Arabic, along with the messages conveyed through the media outlets and education system that he controls, cite the nakba (“catastrophe”) of Israel’s establishment in 1948.

In this respect, he is no different from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad—and their patron, Iran—which make no bones, in any language, about their intention to rid the world of the Jewish state. In fact, P.A. maps depict all of Israel as “Palestine”—and a judenrein one, at that.

This brings us back to Gantz. Whatever he may have told himself and others about what took place during his latest session with Abbas, it certainly wasn’t “confidence building.”

On the contrary, after the meeting, Abbas immediately proceeded to prepare for the 57th anniversary of the launch of Fatah and the organization’s first attack on Israel—the Jan. 1, 1965 attempt to blow up the country’s National Water Carrier.

Never mind that this was two and a half years before the Six-Day War; Abbas realizes that his backers at the United Nations and in the current administration in Washington don’t bother doing the math.

At the celebratory event on Friday, a mere three days after extracting valuable promises from Gantz, the terrorist-in-a-tie accused Israel of “hideous policies of ethnic cleansing and organized terrorism.”

According to The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh, Abbas declared: “The anniversary of the launch of our revolution comes under extremely critical and difficult circumstances, due to the continuation of the heinous Israeli occupation, the escalation of its repressive practices and persecution of our people, the theft of our land and natural resources, the stifling of our economy, the withholding of our tax funds and racial discrimination.”

He failed, of course, to mention his meeting with the Israeli defense minister, which, according to Abu Toameh, was strongly condemned by several Palestinian factions and activists.

Gantz, on the other hand, took the opportunity of the aftermath of Abbas’s visit to his house to announce: “Only those who are responsible for sending soldiers into battle know how deep the commitment is to prevent it. This is how I have always acted, and this is how I will continue to act.”

In light of his silence in the face of Abbas’s belligerent remarks, we believe him.

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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