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Abbas’s Tired, Old U.N. Rhetoric

12:20 PM, Sep 28, 2012 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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Abbas then mentions his desire for U.N. membership, but says only that “consultations” about this have begun. No sense of urgency is conveyed about what, in his speech to the U.N. last year, was the big ticket item. When he refers to “the acceptance of Palestine as a Member State” of UNESCO last year, he bizarrely adds, “the homeland of Mahmoud Darwish and Edward Said is playing its role in UNESCO with high responsibility and professionalism.”

Darwish was regarded widely as the Palestinian national poet; one has to wonder what Abbas thought he was contributing by mentioning Said (whose books the Palestinian Authority banned for a while, until he praised Yasser Arafat for refusing to make a peace deal with Israel at Camp David).

Abbas nears the end with a poetic section evoking the Nakba, meaning the establishment of Israel in 1948, and the passing of so many people who “witnessed its horrors” and “were killed in wars, massacres, attacks, raids, and incursions.” He adds that “their beautiful country … was a beacon of coexistence, tolerance, [and ]progress,” an account that would surprise the Jews of the Palestinian Mandate who lived through the riots and pogroms of the 1920s and 1930s, where hundreds were killed and many more injured time after time.

Abbas then concludes with a peroration about peace and independence, adding oddly that “national reconciliation” will be achieved “via resorting to the ballot boxes, which will confirm our people’s democratic choice.” This, from a man who was elected in 2005 for a four-year term of which he is now in the eighth year.

Speeches like this are a great mistake. When it comes to anti-Israel rhetoric Abbas will never out-do Hamas and should not try. The only thing a speech like this will do is persuade Israelis that he is not a serious partner for peace.  His continuing refusal of any honest dialogue with his own people about the compromises peace will require suggests that he does not see any serious negotiation coming, will not prepare for one, and does not really seek one.

Perhaps far more striking than Abbas’s discussion of Palestine at the General Assembly this year is the discussion of the subject by President Obama. He mentioned it briefly, in one paragraph late in his speech, and used the words Palestine or Palestinian only twice. In his first address to the U.N., in 2009, he mentioned these words thirteen times and the subject was central to his speech, in paragraph after paragraph. The subject faded away this year.

One hopes Abbas will notice this. He would do far better to ask himself why the old rhetoric is failing to advance the interests of the Palestinian people than to go on, year after year, repeating it. The standing ovation he gets each year in the General Assembly hall, should, by now, not deceive him: The delegates love to applaud denunciations of Israel. But they bring progress for his people no closer.

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