The Palestinians are by no means saints, yet this week one can certainly cite the famous saying “the work of the righteous is done by others” (Midrash Talmudi, Brachot 35). The work of the Palestinians was done by someone else, i.e., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In fact, surely unintentionally, Netanyahu extracted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from a trap Netanyahu himself laid for the Palestinian leadership. The new Nationality Law, anchoring the Jewish character of the State of Israel, was championed by Netanyahu to please his right-wing camp. But looking into it closely, one can realize that it opens an escape hatch for the Palestinians from Netanyahu’s incessant demand for them to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people as a precondition for any Israeli-Palestinian agreement ending their conflict. All that is left for Abbas to do now is to reiterate what he already said in 2009. At a public April 2009 speech in Ramallah, Abbas said it was not his job to supply the definition of the State of Israel. “Call yourselves the Hebrew Socialist Republic,” he said at the time, “it’s none of my business.”