Apr 09 2014

Abbas Moves Bring Out Israeli Arrogance and Paternalism

Published by at 10:41 am under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

The decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to sign 15 international treaties brought further proof of Israeli arrogance, paternalism and even racist attitudes toward the Palestinians.

Public statements by senior Israeli officials, as well as commentaries and analyses by Israeli pundits show angry reactions to the Palestinian move, something akin to the anger one would read about when slaves did not show enough respect and actually dared “suggest” that they wanted to be free.

The Israeli prime minister set the tone during the start of the weekly Israeli Cabinet meeting. He argued that Palestinians can only get their coveted state through his style of negotiations and based on his conditions, including his new demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz joined the attack with a diatribe reflecting a slave owner mentality: “Truth be told, Mahmoud Abbas is spitting in our faces. The Palestinian Authority exists thanks to us. Not only because of the Oslo Accords, but because of the funds we transfer them, and the security we give them. Otherwise, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as they control Gaza, would also take down Abbas and take over Ramallah.”

Other Israeli officials made similar remarks. Settlements representative in the Cabinet Neftali Bennett mocked the Palestinian president’s UN move: “If he wants to go to the UN, I will buy him the ticket and there he will face a personal lawsuit for war crimes.”

The Israelis are not signatories to the Rome Convention, which created the International Court of Justice, an institution the Palestinians have not signed up to.

While the vulgarity of Israeli officials came out loud and clear in reaction to the Palestinian move, a more nuanced Israeli racism showed up in the analyses published after the decision. Instead of explaining the truth about the breakdown of the talks, Israeli analysts came up with all sorts of excuses except the real one.

Rarely was the Israeli refusal to implement an agreed-to quid pro quo dealt with.

Palestinians had agreed not to join UN agencies or treaties in return for Israel releasing 104 prisoners who had served more than 20 years and jail and who had been imprisoned prior to the Oslo Accords. Israel reneged on that US-sponsored agreement and the Palestinians felt that they were free of their obligation.

Israeli analysts focused on blaming the Palestinians for the lack of progress in the peace talks, saying that Abbas was trying to salvage a supposedly lost public support.

All these are factually false, and fail to point at Israel for failure of progress in the peace talks.

The Palestinian president has made tough decisions and showed he is able to take difficult choices, like when he told Israeli students one month ago that Palestinians do not plan to flood Israel with refugees. His public compromise on one of the most difficult issues, the right of return, clearly belies the Israeli claim that he is no partner for talks.

Neither has Abbas lost public support, as the Israelis claim.

Two independent polls taken in March (a month before the Palestinian decision) show high approval rating for Abbas. The Arwad poll conducted around March 11 shows 58 per cent of Palestinians approving his efforts. In another poll, 53 per cent said that they would vote for Abbas if national elections were to take place, an increase from 52 per cent a few months earlier. Certainly these are not numbers of a failing leader who is looking for a public relations stunt to improve his standings, as claimed by Israel.

Israelis also claim that Palestinians are “drunk with power” because they made a number of claims in the April 2 meeting between chief Palestinian and Israeli negotiators Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni.

By demanding the return of the 2002 deportees from the Church of Nativity incident,the release of 1,200 prisoners and the opening of closed institutions (such as the chamber of commerce) in Jerusalem, Palestinian negotiators were repeating requests that had already been agreed to but not implemented.

These demands were made numerous times before. The mostly forgotten Roadmap Agreement calls for the return to the situation prior to October 2000 and the release of 1,200 prisoners. Israel’s short memory does not mean that the oppressive acts that it carries out must be tolerated forever.

The childish statement made by Israel’s prime minister vis-à-vis the unilateral move made by these rebellious Palestinian slaves could be almost comic.

“If Palestinians take unilateral moves we will respond by unilateral moves,” he warned.

Every single day Israel continues its occupation and colonial settlement activities, it is acting unilaterally. The idea that it will take another unilateral move does not scare Palestinians who have little more to lose through their newfound, albeit tiny, act independent of their Israeli occupiers.

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