What I Hope Obama Asked Abbas

Opinion

on March 21 2013 10:43 AM
Obama And Abbas
U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a news conference at the Muqata Presidential Compound in the West Bank City of Ramallah thursday. Reuters

Dear President Obama,

By the time this column appears, you’ll have met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, undoubtedly assuring him of your commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pledging United States encouragement for the ongoing state-building in the West Bank.

That’s fine, but I can’t help but wonder whether you asked Abbas about some of his, and the PA’s, recent statements and activities that present far greater obstacles to a Palestinian state than Israel’s settlement building, which gets far more attention.

As you surely know, Mr. President, a true and lasting peace cannot be imposed on a reluctant people. It can only come when Israelis and Palestinians are ready to accept the hard realities of negotiation and compromise, and then tolerate one another from opposite sides of a secure border.

The path to a two-state solution is clear: Israelis would give up land for peace, presumably by making necessary adjustments to the 1967 borders that account for large Israeli settlements as well as major Palestinian population areas. Palestinians would renounce terror and abandon hopes of a state that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and, thus, wipes out Israel.

So, I’m curious whether you asked President Abbas about, for instance:

  • -- The posthumous honors he gave this week to the proud mother of three Palestinian “martyrs.”

Abbas opened a “tent of condolence” at his headquarters in Ramallah to honor Maryam Farhat after her death a few days ago, and he also gave her a high PA honor called the “Order of Sacrifice.”

Known as Umm Nidal (“the mother of Nidal”), she was a winning candidate of the terrorist group Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections who celebrated her son’s suicide bombing four years earlier, which killed five teenaged Jewish students and wounded 23 others, by giving out boxes of halva and chocolates.

In 2002, Nidal’s 17-year-old son, Muhammad Farhat, entered the former settlement of Atzmona in Gaza, opened fire, and threw a grenade before he was killed. Her other two terrorist sons were killed in later years in separate Israeli military operations.

Nidal was filmed advising Muhammad about his upcoming operation, and she spoke proudly of her three “martyred” sons in a 2005 newspaper interview, proclaiming, “[A]s for sacrifice, Jihad for the sake of Allah, or performing the duty they were charged with -- this makes me very happy.”

  • -- His recent comments that Nazism and Zionism were closely linked before World War II.

In a late January interview on Lebanese TV, Abbas twisted history in the vilest way, declaring that he would “challenge anyone to deny the relationship between Zionism and Nazism before World War II.”

Abbas suggested the two movements shared a basic ideology. In fact, Zionist and Jewish leaders worked with Nazi authorities in the 1930s to boost Jewish emigration to Palestine. Through the Haavara Agreement of 1933, the Zionist leaders transferred property from Germany to Palestine as a way to ease emigration.

Abbas’ mangled history of the period should not surprise us, for he authored a 1983 book, “The Other Side: The Secret Relations Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement,” in which, according to the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, he repeatedly raised doubts about the Holocaust.

In addition, he wrote that Zionist leaders wanted the Nazis to murder Jews because “having more victims meant greater rights and stronger privilege to join the negotiation table for dividing the spoils of war once it was over.”

  • -- PA school textbooks that preach the “right of return” of all Palestinian refugees.

Starting in first grade, textbooks preach a right of return for all Palestinian refugees -- a demand no serious student of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict takes seriously due to its implications for Israel as a Jewish state.

“Four and a half million Palestinians live in the diaspora outside Palestine,” a fourth-grade textbook declares, according to a new report by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “Most are refugees waiting to return to the motherland, from which they were expelled.”

School textbooks from elementary school through at least junior high mention such Israeli cities as Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, Beit Shean, and Safed as places to which Palestinian refugees will one day return.

Mr. President, I’m also curious whether you asked Abbas about his recent comments on Russian TV that “there is no difference between our [PA] policies and those of Hamas” -- since the latter maintains its goal of destroying Israel.

I’m curious, as well, whether you learned anything about Abbas’ reconciliation talks with Hamas, which would elevate the terrorist group into the official Palestinian government -- since that would put Israel in the untenable position of negotiating peace with a genocide-seeking adversary.

In essence, Mr. President, did you learn whether Abbas wants peace? If so, did you ask him why he’s not preparing his people to accept it?

Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and author of “Sound the Trumpet: The United States and Human Rights Promotion.”

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