Mahmoud Abbas has promised to drop a “bombshell” during his speech scheduled for later this month at the UN; his bomb, however, detonated too soon in Tulkarem, only 30 kilometres from Ramallah, instead of New York or Tel Aviv. Abbas made himself into a joke when social networking sites were filled with the image of PA security forces beating up a young Palestinian boy who participated in a protest organised in the city to condemn the Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque. Abbas allowed the Palestinians to be subject to the gloating of the Israeli media, which published the video of this incident along with suitable comments. It is worth noting that some Israeli commentators published the video as proof of Netanyahu’s mistake in being too hard on Abbas and criticising him too much, in their opinion.
Of course, Abbas, who boasts that he has never shot a bullet in his life, is using his promise to drop a political bombshell in the UN as a means to scare Israel, the US and some international Arab parties. He is hoping to convince them that he still has something in his arsenal with which he can persuade Tel Aviv to change its behaviour towards him, especially after he has appeared to have nothing left worth using. This became apparent after the failure of his political programme and he accepted an operational role in the protection of Jewish settlers in the West Bank by intensifying security coordination, on condition that Israel would allow his Palestinian Authority to stay in business.
It is clear that by means of his theatrical statement, Abbas is trying to keep Tel Aviv and Washington guessing what his proposals will be until the last minute before his speech at the UN, perhaps in the hope that one of them will try to stop him. Abbas is counting on giving the impression that he is planning to announce a measure that will change the reality of the situation radically, such as saying that he will stop operating in accordance with the Oslo Accords. This would mean the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority in the belief that this will worry Israel, as it will have to bear the costs and consequences of its occupation which are currently borne by the PA.
It is interesting that Abbas fell before he even set off, as Israel did not give any attention to his media stunt. Senior Israeli officials did not even bother to comment on it. The veteran Palestinian politician seems to have forgotten that Israel determines its policies on the PA based on the intelligence it has collected, so it knows the limits of the Palestinian leadership’s positions. Israel made sure that the objections made by the PLO leadership to the positions Israel insisted on during the secret negotiations in Oslo were only initial objections and that the organisation had no other choice but to accept what Israel was offering. Israel managed to uncover the PLO’s true positions after its spy Adnan Yassin planted a bug in Mahmoud Abbas’s office in Tunisia when he was the PLO Secretary-General. Israel may have gleaned a lot from the intelligence it gathered about the limits of Abbas’s flexibility. On the other hand, it is completely aware of the PA president’s personality and character as well as the fact that he is not one who can handle confrontation. Hence, Israeli officials did not react very much to his declaration. Abbas ruined his theatrics because he did not take any action that would indicate that he was determined to make a change which may pose a threat to Israel. Instead, he reassured Israel by continuing with his security coordination and the arrest of Palestinian resistance activists, and allowing officials in his government to continue with their provocative discourse on the domestic front.
Abbas’s problem lies in the fact that his realisation that the curtain is coming down on his political programme is not pushing him to reach the required conclusions. Even if he announces a dramatic measure during his speech at the UN, he will find a thousand ways to back down from it because he never prepares for confrontation or for having to pay the price for what he says or does. His attempts to convene the Palestinian National Council in order to make amendments that would tighten his grip on matters in the PLO unveiled his true priorities, which do not include any intention to hinder Israel’s Judaisation and settlement policies.
Mahmoud Abbas is mistaken if he thinks that his desperate, comical acts, which do not befit a man who is over eighty years old, will be able to cover up his failure and the collapse of his programme. The bitter truth that Palestine is witnessing, in the light of ever more Israeli settlements, Judaisation and the desecration of Islamic sanctities, actually turns his comic performances into dark tragedies.
Translated from Assabeel, 20 September 2015.
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