I regularly monitor The NY Jewish Week for the New York City chapter of J Street. This column by Gary Rosenblatt, the moderate editor/publisher of NY’s Jewish Week, points out some troubling and unhelpful attitudes from the Palestinian Authority and others in the Arab and Muslim worlds: “Denying Reality Won’t Make It Go Away.” One may want to disagree (or not) with Rosenblatt’s conclusion that the US needs to credibly threaten Iran with military action, but what he says about Abbas is disturbing. Aside from mentioning his 1984 Soviet doctoral dissertation on “Zionist complicity” in the Holocaust (a very old story), Rosenblatt indicates the following:
… Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas … continues to deny a Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel. In a speech the other day he referred, as he has before, to the “the alleged Temple” in Jerusalem and pledged that the Holy City will “forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian.” …
I know Rosenblatt slightly and feel that he honestly supports a negotiated two-state solution (as does most of the American Jewish community–and most Israelis), but there is a strong belief that the Palestinians can’t be trusted. The following is an edited version of my email discussion with our colleague and fellow blogger, Hillel Schenker, the Israeli co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal:
The title of his editorial could easily be referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He denies the Palestinian connection and right to East Jerusalem, and the fact that no one in the Arab and Moslem world, or the Vatican for that matter, would agree to a solution based upon a United Jerusalem under Israeli control.
The basic facts are that President Abbas advocates the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps. When the Israeli government will be ready to negotiate on that basis, which is also the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative, we will be able to achieve peace.
All the rest really doesn’t matter, though it’s possible to relate to each one of the concrete claims made in the column.
Netanyahu’s attitude on Jerusalem is not helpful, but this wasn’t true of either Barak or Olmert. Can’t we say this about Netanyahu while also indicating that Abbas doesn’t help his cause if this is his attitude?
…. I know that there was some internal Palestinian criticism of his [Abbas’] statements at the last UN General Assembly, when he didn’t acknowledge a Jewish connection alongside a Moslem and Christian connection – I heard the criticsm myself.
However, the claim was that he felt he had to counter-posture to Netanyahu’s statements about sole Jewish right to Jerusalem. I would wish that Abbas would go beyond that type of tit-for tat behavior, but he hasn’t been able to do so. Maybe that’s the nature of Middle Eastern “negotiations” and bargaining.
…. One of the problems at Camp David 2 in 2000 was that Arafat didn’t feel he had the backing of the Arab world to respond to the concessions on Jerusalem that Barak offered. Since 2002, the Palestinians have had the backing of the Arab world for such a move, based upon the Arab Peace Initiative. Unfortunately, Netanyahu has been totally inflexible, both on Jerusalem, and concerning a lack of response to the Arab Peace Initiative, which offered Israel peace and normal relations with the Arab world in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and an agreed upon solution to the refugee problem and Jerusalem.
The claim is that Olmert and Abbas were on the verge of an agreement – on the Israeli side Ron Pundak and others say that Olmert went farther than any other Israeli leader, while on the Palestinian side senior negotiator Saeb Erekat says that they just needed another few months to reach an agreement.
Unfortunately, maybe even tragically for all of us, Olmert was undermined by Sheldon Adelson’s Yisrael Hayom free-bee newspaper, established to undermine him as PM and promote Netanyahu, and of course Olmert’s own dubious behavior when he was mayor of Jerusalem and a government minister, and had to step down under a legal cloud. It’s on record that Abbas never rejected Olmert’s offers, but they were unable to arrive at an agreement because time ran out.