Abbas’s Words of Courage, falling on deaf ears, or worse, being undermined by Israelis that unwittingly strengthen his extremist rivals

So many in the Israeli and American Jewish community say that Palestinians take no steps to build trust or recognize that they are committed to live in peace with Israel.  But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has for over a decade consistently been courageous about the need for reaching a two state solution through non-violent means, to the point that other Palestinians often criticize him for his conciliatory tone and policies that have not been reciprocated by the present Israeli government.

Netanyahu, Lieberman, and, perhaps worst of all Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, keep marginalizing Abbas and giving him no room to operate.

And yet the Israeli Administration has continued to unwittingly (or some fear, intentionally, so as to discredit the existence of moderate Palestinian partners to negotiate with) strengthen Hamas’s credibility – most recently with the Gaza war that ended with Israeli concessions that Hamas is trumpeting as a victory over the Zionists.  Sadly over the last couple months the Israeli government has turned Hamas into an extremely popular party not just in Gaza but even in the West Bank, even among Christian parties.  OneVoice Palestine staff in Gaza and the West Bank report to me that people see the Hamas way as the only way Israelis listen, and they credit Hamas with numerous (often imagined) victories, while seeing Abbas as increasingly ineffective and irrelevant because the Israeli government ignores his overtures.

It wasn’t like this just a few weeks ago!

The present Israeli Administration continues to try to weaken Palestinian moderates and destroy any legitimacy or credibility they may have left.  Last week, Ya’alon said, “What stands out from this event is the irrelevance of Abbas.  He’s only relevant for declarations and for unilateral steps to seek recognition at the UN.”  So what does Ya’alon want? For Abbas to use force so that he will listen?!  Didn’t we ask for Palestinians to use diplomatic means? Which is it? Do we want the Palestinian leadership to use reason as Abbas does, or force as Hamas does?

Listen to the words of Abbas himself most recently.  It takes enormous courage for him to be as direct about all these issues:

And yet, Netanyahu’s response that same day was to announce more settlement building.
It is fascinatingly depressing to see how extremists help one another become more popular.  It is almost as if there is an unholy alliance between the Israeli and Palestinian absolutists, reinforcing each others’ visions and destroying the moderate camps on both sides. How long will the voices of moderation stay silent and watch their lives be hijacked?

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