Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the meeting of the PLO Central Council in Ramallah proclaimed the launching of a political campaign, in tandem with a violent struggle, to achieve Palestinian independence and sovereignty in the 1967 territories without giving up what the Palestinians call the “right of return.”
On January 14, 2018, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), leader of the PLO, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, and “president of the state of Palestine,” gave an important political speech to a meeting of the PLO Central Council. In it, he proclaimed in effect the launching of an independent Palestinian entity.
The Palestinian strategy that Abbas outlined includes the following elements:1
A Change in the Rules of the Game
Abbas rejected exclusive American sponsorship of the diplomatic process because of “the crime it committed against the city of Al-Quds [Jerusalem]” in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also rejected what he called American “dictates” in the effort to reach a “deal” to resolve the conflict. The sole path to negotiations, Abbas asserted, is via an international conference or the framework of a group of states, as in the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program involving the P5+1 group of countries.
Abbas also called upon the PLO Central Council to “reexamine the signed agreements between the PLO and the government of Israel” and see whether they comport with the resolutions of international institutions on the status of the state of Palestine and the rights of the Palestinian people. This behest implies a threat to withdraw from the agreements with Israel and a demand to update them, in light of resolutions of the United Nations and its institutions.
An All-Out Diplomatic Campaign to Achieve Independence and Sovereignty
Abbas did not mention the threat by senior Palestinian figures about possibly dismantling the PA and transferring responsibility to Israel as the “occupying power.” On the contrary, he emphasized the importance of conserving the achievements of Palestinian diplomacy thus far and continuing the struggle. It includes, in his view, working in the international arena to increase the number of states that recognize the state of Palestine; having the state of Palestine join international institutions and conventions; submitting claims against Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague; giving Interpol the names of wanted individuals (presumably Israelis); promoting a comprehensive boycott of Israel (BDS) by, among other things, publishing a blacklist of Israeli companies that help the “occupation;” adopting the behavior patterns of a state; and waging a struggle on the ground that will make Israel pay the price for controlling land that the Palestinians see as belonging to the state of Palestine.
The ultimate objective, according to Abbas, is to establish an independent Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, with eastern Al-Quds as its capital, while preserving the Palestinian right to return to their homes in Israeli proper in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948) as the Palestinians interpret it.
Sticking to a False Historical Narrative that Borders on Anti-Semitism
Abbas denied the Jewish people’s historical and religious link to the Land of Israel, and hence also its right to the land. “This is our land since the days of the Canaanites, and in this context we are the descendants of the Canaanites, and the Torah says that from the days of the Canaanites to the present we have never left the land, and we are here since before [the era of] our lord Ibrahim [Abraham], and we did not leave the land,” Abbas said.
He maintained that the Palestinians are direct descendants of the Canaanites, who dwelt in the country during the second millennium BCE, while the Jews were brought to Israel in the 20th century as part of a Western colonial endeavor “that has no connection to Judaism.” In claiming (based on the religion of Islam) that the Prophet Abraham, of the Hebrew Bible, was one of the fathers of the Islamic umma, Abbas culturally appropriated Jewish history on behalf of the Palestinian Muslims. Abbas also quoted passages from the Egyptian author and scholar Abdel Wahab el-Messiri, who claimed that the Zionist movement had an interest in the existence of anti-Semitism. In another part of his speech, Abbas accused Israel of massively exporting drugs to the PA.
Continued Adherence to Terror as a Complement to the Diplomatic Campaign
Abbas said that the Palestinians oppose terror, are committed to the struggle against all forms and sources of terror, and are deeply hurt by Washington’s accusation that they are supporters of terror. Nevertheless, Abbas confirmed that he had sent invitations to the representatives of the terror organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad to take part in the deliberations of the Central Council that he heads, and said he regretted their decision to turn down his invitation.
Abbas expressed full support for reconciliation talks with Hamas that would integrate it into the PLO and PA institutions and the Palestinian leadership. Furthermore, he declared the continuation of what he called “the peaceful popular struggle” – that is, the Palestinian intifada, now known as the “Knife Intifada,” which since September 2015, has seen thousands of terror attacks involving stabbing, vehicle ramming, shooting, explosives, Molotov cocktails, and other means.
In open defiance of Israel and the United States, Abbas pronounced: “There is an important matter, and it is the issue of the payments to [the families of] the martyrs, to the families of the martyrs and the prisoners. We steadfastly refuse to stop these payments, and we will not allow anyone to infringe on the payments to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. They are our sons, and we will keep paying them money.” Many of the martyrs and wounded are terrorists who were killed or wounded during or while preparing terror attacks. All the prisoners Abbas referred to are security prisoners, many of them incarcerated for the murder or attempted murder of Jews. Israel and the United States view the PA’s monthly stipends to these groups as direct support for terror. As “proof” of his assertions about the Palestinians’ blamelessness, Abbas repeated the mendacious claim that no Palestinians had ever joined the Islamic State.
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