Palestinians: More Missed Opportunities
By Bassam Tawil
Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas continues to mouth his “desire” to achieve peace with Israel on the basis of a two-state solution. Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction and PLO partners, however, evidently have a different agenda: to wage war on Israel until the “liberation of all of Palestine.”
In a speech delivered on his behalf by Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, on November 30, Abbas repeated his commitment to a two-state solution based on international law and the 1967 “borders.”
Abbas called on the UN “to force Israel to recognize the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders as the basis for a two-state solution, and to agree on a demarcation of borders in line with the resolutions of the international community.”
Abbas’s claim to a commitment to the “two-state solution” is a staple of his talks to the international community. It is just not clear who Abbas represents when he talks about the Palestinians’ commitment to a “two-state solution.”
In addition to his title as president of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas also holds the jobs of chairman of the PLO and Fatah, his ruling faction in the West Bank. Do Abbas’s statements regarding peace with Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel represent any of three these bodies? Hardly.
Abbas’s four-year term in office (as president of the Palestinian Authority) expired in January 2009. Since then, he is widely considered by Palestinians as an illegitimate president who does not have the authority to sign any peace agreement with Israel on behalf of a majority of his people. Many Palestinians will legitimately reject any agreement he signs with Israel on the grounds that the 82-year-old Abbas, who is now in his 12th year of his four-year term in office, is not a lawful leader.
Against this backdrop of zero confidence, any agreement Abbas signs with Israel would not be worth the paper it is written on.
Besides, the Palestinian Authority that he heads has no jurisdiction over the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or millions of Palestinians residing in Arab countries and elsewhere around the world. At the very most, the PA would be able to implement such an agreement only on those parts it controls in the West Bank.
That is concerning to the PA, a self-ruled body that was established in accordance with the 1993 Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PLO.
As for the PLO, of which Abbas is chairman, it is worth noting that it is an umbrella organization made up of various Palestinian factions. With the exception of Fatah, the largest faction (also headed by Abbas), the remaining groups are emphatically opposed to a peace process with Israel. Even worse, the other PLO groups continue to advocate an armed struggle against Israel.
Take, for example, the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a famous PLO terror group that does not believe in Israel’s right to exist and continues to engage in terrorism. The PFLP never misses an opportunity to state its support for violence and rejection of any peace agreement with Israel.
Here is what the PFLP thinks about efforts to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israel:
“The PFLP confirms its categorical rejection of all international and Arab projects and ‘solutions’ that attempt to undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and principally, their right of return, in the interest of proposals consistent with the Zionist vision if this fundamental issue.”
The PFLP, like Hamas and other Palestinian groups, makes no secret of its goal to “liberate Palestine, from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea.” All should be commended for their honesty. If anyone has any doubts, their plan means the total destruction of Israel.
Another PLO terror group, the Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), for example, is equally dangerous and rejects any peaceful settlement with Israel. This is what the group had to say in a recent statement marking the 69th anniversary of the “Nakba” (the “catastrophe,” a reference to the establishment of Israel in 1948):
“Let’s make the 69th anniversary of the Nakba a year to liberate our cause from the Oslo compromising ties, a year of national salvation and mobilization of our national forces against the Zionist project on every single inch of Palestine land.”
Some may argue that both the PFLP and DFLP are relatively small groups within the PLO, and that their words are insignificant. However, it is the actions of the terror groups, not only the rhetoric, that matters. With a long history of terrorism against Israel, the PFLP and DFLP will never accept any peace agreement with Israel. How can they accept any agreement when they are already calling for the abrogation of the Oslo Accords?
The PFLP and DFLP are not the only PLO terror groups opposed to any peaceful settlement with Israel. Among the other PLO terror groups are: The Palestinian People’s Party, the Palestine Liberation Front, the Arab Liberation Front and the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front. Their shared ideology: rejection of Israel’s right to exist and commitment to terrorism as a way of “liberating all of Palestine.”
Thus, as chairman of the PLO, Abbas cannot say that he represents the entire organization. He has no leverage with the PFLP, DFLP and the remaining terror groups operating under the umbrella of his PLO. These terror groups would never — ever — sign on to a peace agreement between Abbas and Israel.
That leaves us with Abbas’s dominant Fatah faction. And now we come to the million dollar question: Does Abbas really represent all of Fatah? The answer is simple and clear: No.
Over the past few decades, Fatah has witnessed sharp divisions and disputes, resulting in a number of splinter groups that broke away and are now openly challenging Abbas’s leadership and policies.
Tensions within Fatah have intensified markedly in recent years, especially with the revolt spearheaded by Abbas’s arch-rival, Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan, a former Fatah official and security commander ousted by Abbas, is currently based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and enjoys the backing of many Palestinian cadres, especially in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan and his supporters are working hard to remove Abbas from power with the help of the UAE and some Arab countries.
Moreover, Abbas’s two-state solution remarks and his avowals of opposition to terrorism also fail to reflect the views of some of Fatah’s top officials and media. A report presented by Palestinian Media Watch to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East details Fatah’s ongoing incitement and glorification of terror against Israel.
The divisions within Fatah are not limited to the political echelon only; they also extend to the faction’s various armed groups. This means that Abbas also does not represent all the armed groups of the faction that he is supposed to be heading under Fatah.
Here, for example, is what one of Fatah’s armed groups, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades — Battalion of Martyr Nidal Al-Amoudi thinks about Abbas’s two-state solution and peace with Israel: “We promise our people to pursue the path of armed struggle and the pure rifle until the liberation of all Palestine and its holy sites.” That statement by Abbas’s terror group was issued in the Gaza Strip on December 2. The occasion: Launching a “training” camp for Fatah terrorists named after Yasser Arafat.
Let us get things clear: While Abbas is making noises about a peace process, his own Fatah faction is inciting violence and calling for the destruction of Israel. While Abbas is talking about his interest in achieving a two-state solution, his partners in the PLO, including the PFLP and DFLP, are openly calling for the destruction of Israel and advocating an armed struggle. While Abbas is claiming that he is the legitimate president of the Palestinians, many Palestinians, including senior officials in his Fatah faction, are legitimately stating he has no mandate from his people to sign any agreement with Israel.
Abbas is a failed leader who has missed opportunity after opportunity to shepherd his people toward a better and dignified life. While his words may sound good to some Israelis and many in the international community, we are left with the burning question: Exactly who does he represent and on behalf of whom is he exactly talking? The answer is that Abbas is a single-strategy demagogue whose one goal is to hold onto the power to sell mirages to the world until his last breath.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.