4:55 PM, Sep 30, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The Palestinian press has been saying for weeks that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas would “drop a bombshell” when he spoke to the United National General Assembly today. In the event, the bomb did not go off.
The speech was mostly a rehash of tired complaints about Israel, some of them linked to reality (occupation is never popular) and others entirely manufactured and irresponsible.
Abbas’s low point came right at the beginning of the speech, when he accused Israel of various crimes defiling the Temple Mount. He said Israel is trying “to impose its plans to undermine the Islamic and Christian sanctuaries in Jerusalem, particularly its actions at Al-Aqsa Mosque.” This is a lie, and given the violence around the Temple Mount in recent weeks it is the kind of lie that can create injuries and loss of life.
Abbas continues to say that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are swallowing it up, which is simply false: the settlements are growing in population but not expanding territorially. As to Gaza, he said Israel “continues its blockade of the Gaza Strip.” But his listeners surely know that it is Egypt that is maintaining a strict blockade, while Israel supplies the vast bulk of food, water, and electricity to Gaza. Abbas’s claim that the PA is “working on spreading the culture of peace and coexistence” is remarkable in view of the repeated glorification of terrorist murderers in school books and the naming of parks and schools after them. A moment of humor, unintentional to be sure, arrived when Abbas said “we seek to hold presidential and legislative elections.” Elected in 2005, he is now in the eleventh year of his own four year term and has shown zero desire to submit himself to the polls again.
As to recent history, Abbas said, “You are all aware that Israel undermined the efforts made by the administration of President Barack Obama in past years, most recently the efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry aimed at reaching a peace agreement through negotiations.” Obama administration officials have revealed that when the crunch came in its efforts to start negotiations, Netanyahu said yes and Abbas said no. It is therefore entirely false to make the claim he did in this speech.
In previous speeches Abbas insisted that he wanted nothing more than real negotiations, though he would then set preconditions that made negotiations nearly impossible. This year, his “bombshell” was a threat to stop negotiating at all. Blaming Israel for the failure of negotiations is of course ahistorical: not only did Abbas say no to Obama, but he also said no to Ehud Olmert’s generous offer in 2008—as Yasser Arafat did to Ehud Barak’s in 2000. But never mind: now the Abbas line is that Israel is violating its Oslo commitments. So, “they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements, while Israel continuously violates them. We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.”
That’s the bombshell part, but what does it mean? Most likely, not much. Logically, he should have said in the next paragraph that he was resigning as head of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, disbanding the PA, and closing every Palestinian ministry and government office. He should have announced that all security and economic cooperation with Israel was ending. He did not. Nathan Thrall, a keen observer who is head of the International Crisis Group’s Jerusalem office, told the New York Times that Abbas’s line was “a years-old talking point,” “old, old, old, old news,” and “definitely not a bombshell.” Thrall continued: “That is the minimum he could have said. They’ve been saying it for weeks and years: we fulfill our obligations and they don’t fulfill theirs, and we’re not bound by it if they don’t fulfill theirs and the whole thing. I really doubt that there’s something you could really point to that’s novel here, and more important than that, I’m certain that it does not mean any changes practically on the ground.”
Why does Abbas talk himself into a corner this way, where any real or rhetorical bombs that go off are likely to injure him and his own people? Frustration, in part; politics, in part, and the desire to say something that sounds “tough.” And in part, sadly, cynicism: he knows as well or better than we—and his Palestinian listeners—do that these are just more words in yet another UN speech.
Oct 5, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 04 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY
It's been two weeks since a majority of Congress sought to register its disapproval of the Iran deal but fell short of the votes necessary to break a filibuster or override a presidential veto, and most politicians and commentators have moved on.
It’s understandable to want a mental break after a long and hard-fought struggle. But the world hasn’t taken a break. The consequences of the deal are already reverberating.
8:20 AM, Sep 23, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
En route to Friday’s state dinner in his honor, Chinese President Xi Jinping stopped off in Seattle to meet with the heads of America’s great technology firms, from which China denies regularly stealing $300 billion annually in intellectual property, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Ali Khamenei’s dark obsession with Jews and IsraelSep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By ALI ALFONEH and REUEL MARC GERECHT
Antisemitism has never been an easy subject for America’s foreign-policy establishment. Read through State Department telegrams and Central Intelligence Agency operational and intelligence cables on the Middle East and you will seldom find it discussed, even though Jew-hatred—not just anti-Zionism—has been a significant aspect, if not a core component, of modern Arab nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and what usually passes for critical thought among sophisticated Arab elites.
Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
According to the New York Times, rocks now throw themselves. Or at least that’s what The Scrapbook was forced to conclude upon reading the paper’s curious headline: “Jewish Man Dies as Rocks Pelt His Car in West Bank.” The Times eventually “corrected” this headline, but only after it appeared in print. It now reads “Jewish Man Dies as Rocks Pelt His Car in East Jerusalem.” So the Times obviously gave this some thought.
Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By LEE SMITH
Even now with the Russians on the verge of combat operations in Syria, the White House still says it believes that they’re there to fight ISIS. John Kerry says that his Russian counterpart told him that the Russians are “only interested in fighting” the Islamic State. Other administration officials hold out hope for a grand U.S.-Russia coalition against ISIS. But that’s nonsense: Vladimir Putin landed troops in order to protect his investment in Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
2:19 PM, Sep 16, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Secretary Kerry passed up the opportunity this week to recognize one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah.
President says he's "consistent with the best of the Jewish tradition."9:32 AM, Aug 31, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Barack Obama is personally hurt when people call him an anti-Semite, the president said in an interview with the Jewish newspaper the Forward. Obama says "there not a smidgen of evidence for" the accusation.
Mike Pompeo takes on Jim Slattery.9:17 AM, Aug 31, 2015 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
A week ago, I suggested that—contrary to conventional wisdom and perhaps even to first-blush common sense—the GOP field might benefit from one or more new candidates. One of the well-qualified dark horses I mentioned was third-term Rep. Mike Pompeo from Wichita, Kansas.
5:32 PM, Aug 14, 2015 • By KELLY JANE TORRANCE
President Obama claims, as Bill Kristol noted in his editorial in the latest issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, that no country in the world has expressed opposition to his deal with Iran, with the exception of Israel. But that's not accurate. Canada, the United States' biggest trading partner—and, traditionally, its closest ally—has made it clear it wants no part of an agreement normalizing relations between Iran and the West.
With accusations of warmongering, the president feeds anti-Semitism. 11:24 AM, Aug 8, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
This week President Obama sealed his legacy as the most divisive president in modern times, who will leave behind both worsened race relations and a set of arguments about Iran that will surely feed anti-Semitism.
12:03 PM, Aug 6, 2015 • By JIM SWIFT
As the clock ticks down to tonight's set of debates in Cleveland, the Democrats have set up their spin shop to try and sway the press. The venue they chose, the Radisson Hotel Cleveland-Gateway, may sound like an ordinary hotel, but beneath the surface lies an awkward controversy for the ostensibly pro-Israel DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
4:22 PM, Aug 4, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
According to Iranian-based media, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif appeared on a panel today at Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations where he spoke about the nuclear agreement he negotiated with the P5+1 last month in Vienna. Zarif explained that the so-called snap-back sanctions mechanism was less effective than the Obama administration claims. “Our snap-back is easier than theirs,” is how one Iranian journalist tweeted Zarif’s talk, “because we can resume our work with nuts and bolts, but they should convince countries to resume sanctions.” Also, said Zarif, “doing business with foreigners is a guarantee to make them unable to use snap-back mechanism.”
Aug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
In May, President Barack Obama donned a yarmulke and spoke in a Washington, D.C., synagogue. He reminded his audience that Jeffrey Goldberg, a member of the congregation, once called him the “first Jewish president.” He claimed to be flattered by the characterization. And perhaps he was—most Jews, after all, voted for him for president, and many Jews of Obama’s acquaintance have sometimes seemed to care more about the well-being of Planned Parenthood than about the survival of the state of Israel.
Killing Samir Kuntar.8:04 PM, Jul 29, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
Israeli media is reporting that an IAF strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border