Abbas performs the peace dance

Jewish leaders remain unmoved by this year’s performance.

From the events of the previous week: Prominent Israeli coalition members – including heads of different Knesset committees – published an ad in Haaretz, calling on Netanyahu to oppose any sort of territorial compromise. Netanyahu’s collation chairman, Likud’s Yariv Levin, told Al-Monitor that his boss will cease to be a prime minister should he sign an agreement with the Palestinians. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon called for canceling the Oslo Accords (a good idea, although Danon supports doing so for the wrong reasons), and to make the current status quo – Palestinian autonomy under a permanent occupation – a lasting arrangement for the foreseeable future. Danon is no backbencher clown. His office is in charge of the West Bank and Gaza. Netanyahu, of course, doesn’t have any problem with any of these statements; they only boost his image as a leader who confronts his own camp merely by talking to Palestinians, but without actually paying any political price.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is doing all it can to shield Israel from consequences of its policies, with Secretary of State John Kerry lobbying against the new European Union guidelines to limit joint projects with Israelis to the internationally-recognized 1967 border. Meanwhile, special envoy Martin Indyk is forbidden by Israel from entering the negotiation room, so that he isn’t able to see what doesn’t actually happen there. How comfortable for Indyk, who represents an administration that has decided to avoid any form of confrontation with the Israeli government, no matter what steps the latter makes on the ground.

As if to highlight the entire farce, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently had to go through the yearly peace dance in front of “leaders of the Jewish community” and “peace organizations.” In this ritualistic ceremony, Palestinians are required to answer all sort of questions on Zionism and Israel in order to win another year’s worth of support by the Jewish leadership for the ideas such as the “peace process” (C) and the “two-state solution” (TM).

Alas, the meeting didn’t go so well this time. According to a report by J.J. Goldberg – who participated in both this and last year’s event – Abbas rejected a demand by no less than six attendants to use his upcoming UN speech in order to address Israelis and allay their fears. Instead, Abbas intends to tell the world about the plight of his own people (bo-ring!) and to demand some sort of effort on the world’s behalf. This selfish move greatly disappointed the attendants, with one former Clinton administration aid remarking “I wish somebody could have asked him why nobody believes him.” Touché!

I don’t envy Abbas. The stamp of approval from the peace industry is necessary for keeping his financial and diplomatic lifeline unharmed (see what happened to Arafat when he lost it). But I wonder what made all those Jewish writers and leaders take part in such an embarrassing event, let alone try to get some more concessions out of Abbas (as if the peace talks and American pressure are not enough). Did any of them ever participate in such a grilling of an Israeli prime minister? What made them demand that the 78-year-old refugee from Safed help them in their political cause? Shouldn’t this be the other way around? Did they consider the possibility that the Israeli public has heard and understood Abbas all too well, but has decided to continue with the status quo?

At such moments, I really don’t know what separates the peace camp from the likes of Danon and Levin. In both cases, the Palestinians become the objects of their own political desires, but not much more.

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