Under Yasser Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization notoriously said one thing to Arab/Muslim audiences and the opposite to Israeli/Western ones, speaking venomously to the former and in dulcet tones to the latter. What about Arafat’s mild-mannered successor, Mahmoud Abbas? Did he break from this pattern of duplicity or continue it?
This question has renewed relevance because reports suggest Abbas is ready to offer Israel various territorial compromises; plus, he took unprecedented steps in granting an interview to Israeli journalists and meeting with American Jewish leaders at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.
With unprecedented specificity, the Arabic daily Al-Hayat
indicates, Abbas informed the Obama administration about his willingness to reach a deal on the West Bank and even Jerusalem (although the PA immediately denied
In the interview, Abbas presented himself as genuinely intent on reaching a peace agreement and accepting the idea of international troops. An aide to Abbas characterized this effort as his “trying to reach out to the Israeli public. . . . We want an Israeli partner for the end game, a partner that chose peace, not settlement, peace, not occupation.” Abbas himself warned Israelis, “Don’t let me lose hope.”
Finally, a transcript of the Abraham Center meeting reveals Abbas telling his audience precisely what it wanted to hear: that he condemns violence, recognizes historic Jewish connections to the land Israel controls, accepts Israeli security concerns, and promises to remove incitement from Palestinian Authority media and school materials. On the delicate issue of the Holocaust — a subject on which Abbas himself wrote a Ph.D. “dissertation” in the U.S.S.R., in which he accused Zionists of inflating the number of murdered Jews for political purposes — Abbas acknowledged that Jews had suffered and he rejected Holocaust denial.
What to make of all this? Abbas claimed that he talked to the American Jewish leaders “in the same language” that he uses to speak to the Palestinian street.
In fact, PA media churned out statements intended for the Palestinian “street” that, to put it mildly, contradicted the sweet words directed at Israelis and Americans. As news of Abbas reaching out to the other side came out, so too did reports from Palestinian Media Watch of precisely the opposite messages being conveyed to Palestinians.