Is Abu Mazen Still Relevant for Israel?

Dror Zarski questions the wisdom of Israel’s approach towards Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and whether it has contributed to a decline in Abu Mazen's relevance to Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians.

al-monitor Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) shakes hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after their joint news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov. 21, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Marko Djurica.

Topics covered

west bank, west, united nation, statehood, pa, netanyahu, mahmoud abbas, israel, ismail haniyeh, gaza strip, gaza, benjamin netanyahu

Nov 22, 2012

Only seven days ago, [Nov.14], the country was in an uproar over Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen’s plans to file for non-member nation observer status in the United Nations (not full membership). This was all that was needed to light the “primaries fire” among our parliamentary representatives. “Abbas will pay a steep price if he goes to the United Nations.” “We will overthrow Abu Mazen if he dares go to the United Nations,” and other versions of the threat, prove the direct opposite of the declarations we heard after that [Channel 2] interview [of Abu Mazen] by Udi Segal [on Nov. 1].

This is, in my opinion, evidence of a fascinating process. The person who was considered "persona irrelevant" only two weeks ago, has been instantly transformed into the enemy of the nation. I admit that I actually searched Dr. Google to find out whether human history has ever seen such a major transformation in the past. And now, Operation Pillar of Cloud [or Pillar of Defense] has arrived and given a particular significance to Abu Mazen’s desires.

Now it is all clear. Just like the weekend crossword puzzles, the Palestinians give us a choice of two clear paths. Either the Biblical “With a strong hand and an outstretched arm” against Hamas in Gaza (it should be noted that biblical commentator Ibn Ezra explains the Hebrew “oustretched hand” to mean, “pillar of fire and cloud.” The cloud exists, and the IDF brings the firepower) — or dialogue and an embrace with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

And I innocently thought that Abu Mazen was not at all relevant. That’s what representatives of Netanyahu’s government explained to us after the Palestinian Authority Chairman’s [Nov. 1] interview to Channel 2, in which Abu Mazen hinted that he would be willing to consider far-reaching concessions, such as raising the issue of right of return during the negotiations. As an example, let’s take the words of Abu Mazen’s greatest opponent in Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, in an interview to the Galei-Zahal military radio station the day after. “It is clear that the man is not fighting for peace but for his own skin; therefore, he lies to the Americans, the Europeans, his own people, us. Clearly, he does not have the ability to deliver the goods. He has lost control over the Palestinian public a long time ago.”

The Netanyahu government not only assigned Abu Mazen the “irrelevant” label, but also provided a slew of excuses for not taking the Chairman very seriously. The Palestinian Authority today has “permanent observer” status in the United Nations (as an entity, not a state); Mazen seeks the more upgraded “non-member observer state” status (of a state, not an entity), which is only a step away from full membership status.

In fact, the Palestinian Authority already shares many of the rights shared by the rest of the countries. The upgrading of the Palestinian Authority from “permanent observer” to “non-member observer state” without full membership in the organization, constitutes a threat to Israel mainly because of the concern that the Authority will then be accepted as a member in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. At that point, the Palestinian Authority could sue Israel and its leaders for war crimes. It is important to emphasize that Israel is not a member of the Court, thus is not obligated by the court’s verdicts.

Israel’s stubborn insistence on weakening Abu Mazen is not reasonable and is dangerous to Israel. Fatah’s alternative in the West Bank — [that is, the Hamas] — creates a glorious display of thousands of rockets from Gaza every week. They have scored an even greater success than their cousin Nasrallah from the Hezbollah; while Nasrallah promised rockets in Tel Aviv but did not deliver, Hamas succeeded.

The collapse of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank would empower the Hamas regime and threaten Israel’s security much more than it is threatened today. And perhaps that is what the Netanyahu government is actually seeking: If our partner will be Ismail Haniyeh, it will be a lot easier to announce that there is no one to talk to. So please, our honorable state heads, make a decision and let us know soon: whether the Rais Abbas is "relevant" and when, so that we can prepare for the day after.

The writer is the editor of the London and Kirshenbaum [Channel 10 television] program.

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