Israelis will pay the price for shunning Palestine’s Shimon Peres

One day Mahmoud Abbas, who suppresses his own people to protect Israelis, will also pass away. That’s when the Palestinian pressure cooker will explode.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas seen during the funeral ceremony for Shimon Peres, Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, September 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas seen during the funeral ceremony for Shimon Peres, Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, September 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Flash90)

Arabs and Jews in Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world at large, I promise you that next time Shimon Peres dies, Joint List head Ayman Odeh and the rest of the Joint List will attend the funeral. Okay? Next.

But until then, let’s shed some light on the man who actually attended the funeral, the man who will, sometime soon, pass away himself. Let’s talk about Mahmoud Abbas, who came to pay his final respects, grieved with the Israelis, stretched out his hand in peace — without reciprocation.

Why is everybody placing the blame on Ayman Odeh for burning the bridges that no one seems to be building besides himself? How can Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan write about the “true face” of the man who is, more than anybody, responsible for coexistence in Israel — and all while asking as many Israelis to “share” his post, so that everyone knows who the real Ayman Odeh is.

Last week I wrote about the remnants of the Zionist Left, which feels frustrated with Palestinian citizens of Israel, they who missed a golden opportunity to rebuild ties between the two nations while standing around Peres’ coffin. Truthfully the Zionist Left has stopped surprising us long ago, and today really understands what it really wants. Does it want a unity government? Is it in favor of a final-status agreement? Do they support or oppose settlements?

Until the Left grows a spine, I want to understand why the Israeli Right doesn’t take out all its anger on its leaders. Why don’t they settle the score with Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu, who stood at the funeral and embraced the leaders of the world — smiling from ear to ear as if they were welcoming guests to their son’s wedding — when the following day the government approved a plan to build alternative housing for residents of the unauthorized outpost of Amona, whom are due to be evacuated by the end of the year? Why did the world forgive the Right for driving a stake through Peres’ so-called vision of peace without noticing Abbas, who was turned into a refugee and grew up to succeed Yasser Arafat, is still trying to push for peace?

View of the West Bank settlement of Amona, June 5, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
View of the West Bank settlement of Amona, June 5, 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

This man, who manages to suppress any attempt at uprising or intifada (to protect Israel, of course), is doing everything he can to convince the Israeli side to come back to the negotiating table. An entire generation harmed by the Oslo process grew under Abbas feet beyond the wall. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians see the cancer of settlements nearing, the fence that chokes them in, the crashing economy, and Gaza that has been crumbling for a decade.

And despite it all, Abbas is still able to lead his people with a demand for peace, while the Israelis believe the status quo will remain forever. Palestinians view Abbas as someone who has tried everything — everything — to end the conflict. He begged, pleased, toured the world, accepted all kinds of initiatives (Saudi, French, Russian, American), while at home he faced bloody wars over Gaza and unprecedented criticism over his participation in Peres’ funeral.

Read: It’s time the Zionist Left did some soul searching

Meanwhile the Israelis entirely ignore Abbas as they take part in their new national sport of kicking the Joint List whenever convenient. According to the Right, which has initiated an active, daily, aggressive campaign of delegitimization, the Joint List is the source of all evil. Destroying its image is the way to get rid of threats. Then comes persecution and attacks. Finally, they can move on to the next target. We learned this from the outlawing of the Islamic Movement. Netanyahu spoke just a year ago that banning the group will bring calm to Jerusalem and hinder the “Intifada of the knives.” Arab MKs were accused of supporting ISIS, and now Balad activists are being labeled “traitors.”

But Abbas, with his charming demeanor, his message of reconciliation, and his endless compromises, failed to make an impression on Israelis (not to mention barely making headlines in Hebrew). Even when he said he would not demand a right to return to the city of his birth, hinting that the Palestinians no longer dream of returning to their villages, it did little to bolster his image in the eyes of the Israeli public. This despite the fact that the right of return is sacred to Palestinians, and one of the biggest obstacles in the eyes of Israeli Jews.

But why listen to Mahmoud Abbas? He isn’t the militant, well-armed Arafat who went to his grave without taking off his military garb. This is the intellectual who speaks different languages, wears a suit and tie, who does not yell at anyone except those who demonstrate against him in Ramallah. The one who uses force only against his own people, the same ones who are boiling over with anger in a pressure cooker that was sealed shut when his rule began 11 years ago. Since then there have been only divisions, tension, army raids, and increasing security cooperation with Israel.

Remember that this man is 81 years old. He can never be replaced, and no Palestinian leader that will come up will dare adopt his same, failed “positive attitude.” For young Palestinians, the third generation living under occupation, there is only one conclusion: the Jews won’t move until it hurts. So the Palestinian pressure cooker and the frustrations of military occupation will explode in the next intifada, just after Netanyahu and Sara announce that they will not be attending President Abbas’ funeral in Ramallah, since they are not part of the Palestinian people’s national mourning. They are only the ones who have been causing it for years on end.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.