(March 27, 2018 / JNS) Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, the leader of the Palestinians since 2005—the year in which when he seized power without ever again holding elections—has solely spewed acrimony and made innumerable enemies throughout these years. He is now reaping the rewards.
Instead of talking, he’s gone on ranting everywhere—and not only against Israel, which he’s called a colonialist and racist regime, which in his mind should be destroyed. By now, his list of friends is nonexistent. There is only a pyramid of power made of arms and money; there was neither a peace process nor unification under his command, and the Palestinians are starting to fear the consequences of his increased symptoms of anxiety and paranoia.
His latest mad declarations have struck within his geopolitical boundaries and beyond: in the headlines of Palestinian, Arab and Israeli newspapers, we read, above all, how Abu Mazen publicly declared that U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is “a son of a dog.” Friedman replied earlier this week to his comments at a conference in Jerusalem, by asking him if “this is anti-Semitism or political discourse.”
This insult doesn’t exactly have the same meaning that it has in our language. The use of the expression is not colloquial but of extreme contempt, as when former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak used it against Palestinian Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat, who refused to sign a peace agreement—something he had guaranteed to do. Abu Mazen said this of Friedman intending to make him the epitome of the American attitude, a man who has relatives residing in the settlements; in short, that he, too, is a settler, and therefore it’s not clear whether he’s Israeli or American.
Abu Mazen seems like frustration personified, shooting at 365 degrees. He refuses to speak with the Americans while they are about to present their peace plan; he declared his contempt for Egypt that can’t guarantee the agreement with Hamas and Saudi Arabia because it has interests in common with Israel against Iran. For Europe, he still has a bit of a heart, as has European Union foreign-affairs chief Federica Mogherini for Abu Mazen, who after describing the fragility of the situation, nevertheless expressed the usual hope that the peace process (which only she sees as moving forwards) won’t be delayed any further.
Abu Mazen’s true political goal, which he outlined in his speech, was regarding Hamas, against which he just announced sanctions in Gaza. He declared his disappointment at the failure of the peace process; he explicitly accused Hamas of attempting to assassinate Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and General Intelligence Chief Majid Faraj on March 13.
He said that Hamas must cede control of Gaza or take all the responsibility of the current situation, which as we know is one of misery, ferocity and fundamentalist terrorism. Now, a series of deadlines is also being prepared in which, in the run-up to Easter (and Passover) celebrations, “a day of anger” with marches and demonstrations expected on March 30. Passover is always a period susceptible to terrorist attacks—the worst being the one that happened in Netanya in 2012, which killed 30 people and wounding 120 others while they were enjoying the holiday’s ritual dinner.
Palestinian public discourse about Abu Mazen’s successor fluctuates between Jibril Rajoub—an old, aggressive and militant Palestinian, and a former police chief who said that if he had an atomic bomb, he would hurl it on the Jews—and Mahmoud Dahlan, a man who poses as a moderate but uses Hamas, and whom the Egyptians hate.
But even if Abu Mazen now seems no longer to able to provide any hope for the future, it’s not discussions of his successor and change that lay on the horizon, but chaos. And those who benefit from that? Hamas, which is preparing for further misery that the sanctions promised by Abu Mazen will inflict upon its slave population.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Translation by Amy Rosenthal.