Abbas was not supposed to give “history lessons” to the members of the National Council which met on Monday in Ramallah, but rather to announce new alternative strategies to the Oslo Accords, and to proclaim the will to enact a real reconciliation between all Palestinian political factions. He needed to propose new names for renewing the leadership and ask for space for the representatives of the Palestinian popular movement that we have been seeing in action in Gaza in recent weeks. He could have declared the end of his blockade of Gaza—as the Israeli and Egyptian ones are enough—or, finally respecting what his people have been asking him for years, suspended cooperation between the secret services of the PNA and those of Israel.
In the absence of any of this, his statements that the way toward a Palestinian state goes through popular unarmed struggle in parallel with diplomatic steps is nothing more than oft-repeated ceremonial platitudes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was handed a golden opportunity, and he took full advantage. “Apparently the Holocaust denier is still a Holocaust denier. I call on the international community to condemn his severe anti-Semitism,” he said on Twitter, adding that “with utmost ignorance and brazen gall, he claimed that European Jews were persecuted and murdered not because they were Jews but because they gave loans with interest.”
Netanyahu knows well that the dissolution of Palestinian rights is furthered by these themes. A few years ago, Netanyahu said the Islamic mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al Husseini, a staunch opponent of Israel’s founding, was the one who inspired of the “final solution,” the extermination of the Jewish people conducted by Hitler. This thesis has been refuted by scholars on Israel, including Jewish historians, but it has left its mark. Now, the joint condemnations by other Israeli leaders played along the same lines.
The American administration, with which the Palestinians broke off relations in December after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, also jumped in to criticize. “Lasting peace will not be achieved” on this basis, tweeted Jason Greenblatt, the US envoy charged with negotiations. The European Union, on its part, has said it considered “unacceptable” the statements made by the Palestinian president. “Such rhetoric,” the EU statement continued, “will only play into the hands of those who do not want a two-state solution, which President Abbas has repeatedly advocated.”