Every few years, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 16th year of his four-year term, addresses the U.N. General Assembly to plead the cause of Palestinian statehood that he has repeatedly undermined. Predictably, he blames Israel for its failure.
In 2018, he appealed for “freedom, independence and justice for my oppressed people, who are suffering under Israeli occupation for more than 51 years.” Not just an ordinary occupation, Abbas asserted, but a “colonial occupation [that] continues to suffocate us and undermine our serious efforts to build the institutions of our cherished state.” There would be no Palestinian recognition of Israel—as though that mattered to Israelis—“until Israel recognizes the State of Palestine on the 4 June 1967 borders” (which excluded Israel from its biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria). Indeed, he suggested, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague should investigate “the Israeli occupying forces’ aggressions and settler terror against our people, our land and our holy sites.”
As for holy sites, Abbas claimed without a shred of supporting evidence that “Israeli settlers and even the Israeli army trample daily on the holiness of holy sites including the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.” Neither of these holy sites showed any signs of being trampled upon. He neglected to mention that the mosque was located—surely, not accidentally—on the site of the ancient Jewish temples built millennia before the appearance of Islam.
Much of his fury focused on Israel’s “racist” nation-state law that “denies the connection of the Palestinian people to their historic homeland,” while dismissing “their right to self-determination and their history and heritage.” Israel, he claimed, “practices racism, but it enshrined its practice of it with this law.” In fact, the law did no more than identify Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” hardly a novel claim. “Peace in our region,” Abbas concluded, “cannot be achieved without an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem—“occupied” since the Six-Day War in 1967—as its capital. The “colonial, settler Israeli occupation” must end.
Abbas does not tire of repeating himself. Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly from Ramallah earlier this month, he demanded that Israel withdraw from “the Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.” If it did not, he warned, the PLO might even withdraw its recognition of Israel within its pre-1967 borders before biblical Judea and Samaria, until then comprising Jordan’s “West Bank,” were reclaimed as part of the Jewish state.
Furthermore, warned Abbas, if Israel did not move towards recognition of Palestinian statehood, the Palestinian Authority would appeal to the ICC to end Israel’s “occupation of the land of the Palestinian state.” But since the court only settles disputes between existing countries, it was an empty threat.
In perhaps his most noxious statement, Abbas defended welfare payments to the families of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for their brutal terrorist attacks. “Why should we have to clarify and justify providing assistance to families of prisoners and martyrs, who are the victims of the occupation and its oppressive policies?” So terrorists become victims.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently made clear his opposition to a Palestinian state, stating: “I think it would be a terrible mistake.” Showing every sign of resisting American pressure, he has reassured settler leaders that his new government would not slow construction. “We know what the Democrats are saying,” Bennett told them. “The settlements are illegal and all that. They told me to build less. Guys, you know where I’m coming from. I’m committed to you.” Despite pressure from the Biden administration, construction in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem would continue.
Addressing the United Nations, Bennett firmly declared: “We are an ancient nation, returned to our ancient homeland, revived our ancient language, restored our ancient sovereignty. Israel is a Jewish miracle of Jewish revival.”
Mahmoud Abbas might do well to pay attention. His dark fantasies of Israel’s disappearance have been irreparably shattered.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of “Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel” and “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016,” which was recently selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a “Best Book” for 2019.