Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was absolutely correct when he told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, cannot have it both ways.
Abbas cannot on the one hand declare the Holocaust “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era” and express sympathy with victims’ families, while on the other hand embrace Hamas, which is, as Netanyahu said, a “terrorist organization that denies the Holocaust and openly calls for a new extermination of the 6 million Jews of Israel.”
But having said all that, the Israeli prime minister could allow Abbas to just say what he wants to say and let the world decide if he’s being genuine.
Abbas would be better served, if that’s what he is really interested in, by uttering a clear declaration of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. That’s highly unlikely; he merely notes that the Palestinian Authority has already recognized the country’s existence. Meanwhile, whether or not one is prone to believe this latest moment of clarity is a step forward, Abbas’ Holocaust declaration is at least on the record.
Still, this is obviously a politically motivated step, one that has understandably annoyed Netanyahu.
The formal statement by Abbas on April 27 grew out of a meeting a week earlier between Abbas and an American rabbi who promotes understanding between Muslims and Jews. It is the first offering of condolences by the Palestinian leader.
Abbas had long been a Holocaust denier. In his doctoral dissertation, published as a book in 1983, he challenged the number of Jewish victims and argued that Zionists had collaborated with Nazis to propel more people to what would become Israel.
In a 2011 interview, Abbas said that he did “not deny the Holocaust” and that he had “heard from the Israelis that there were 6 million” victims, and “I can accept that,” the New York Times reported.
The Palestinian leader chose to make his formal statement on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and two days before the scheduled expiration of deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
However, a week earlier Abbas said he hopes to form a unity government with Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to keep the Mideast peace process alive was in tatters even before Abbas spoke up. His chances of achieving any kind of breakthrough are practically non-existent. But preventing another Mideast war is so important to Israel’s and our national interests that he needs to maintain his dialog with the two sides.
With his statement on the Holocaust, Abbas wants the world to see him as a man of peace. But his actions in throwing in with the terrorists of Hamas speak louder than his apparently hollow words.