At a meeting of Palestinian officials on Sunday, Mahmoud Abbas gave a lengthy speech denying Jewish connections to the land of Israel, explaining Zionism and the Holocaust as part of a 400-year-old European colonial plot, and accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinians’ water. The obvious explanation for the oration, writes Eli Lake, is that Abbas was simply telling his audience what he believes. But some are not satisfied with such an explanation; they reason that “Abbas doesn’t really mean it,” and that the fault lies instead with President Donald Trump, whose actions have driven the Palestinian president to distraction and despair. Lake continues:
This is the interpretation of J Street, the Soros-family-funded advocacy group that touts itself as pro-peace and pro-Israel. A J Street statement . . . was careful to stipulate that [Abbas’s supposed] despair was “no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel.” But let’s not lose the plot. This group asserts that Abbas would not have delivered his rant “if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
J Street here is succumbing to a fallacy of international relations. Call it the prime-mover theory of geopolitics: there is always something America can or shouldn’t do that determines the behavior of its adversaries and allies. . . . But foreign affairs are never so simple as one cause having one effect. And this brings us back to Abbas. The eighty-two-year-old Palestinian leader certainly had reason to be disappointed with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He didn’t like Trump’s threats to cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority. But none of that quite explains a speech that wishes for the U.S. president’s house [or, more precisely, his family] to come to ruin, accuses Israel of exporting addictive drugs, and threatens to blacklist companies that do business in the West Bank and report their names to Interpol for bribery.
To explain this vitriol as purely a reaction to despair or hopelessness is to ignore recent history. Abbas was elevated to his position after George W. Bush asked the Palestinian people to elect leaders not tainted by terror. . . . Abbas [in fact] distinguished himself by delivering a brave speech calling for nonviolent resistance to occupation, when Arafat was praising the suicide bombers. The current Palestinian leader has been dining out on that speech now for fifteen years, while consistently rejecting peace offers and later [even] negotiations.
Sign Up For Our E-Mail List Get the latest from Mosaic right in your inbox
Sign up now for unlimited access