Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: Abbas and Al-Aqsa

Jul 30, 2013 | Tzvi Fleischer

Tzvi Fleischer

Abbas and Al-Aqsa

There is an ongoing and to my view, generally inconclusive debate in Israel and among Israel watchers about the genuineness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a peacemaker. It is certainly true that, in terms of his consistent opposition to violence and terrorism, he represents a major improvement over his predecessor Yasser Arafat. And some who have met him insist that he sincerely wants to reach a genuine and final peace deal that Israel can live with. Those who support this view can point to some very positive public statements by Abbas – especially in English – such as his comments last November suggesting a willingness to waive the claimed Palestinian “right of return”. Another example was his heartening comments in early July about Israel: “They are our neighbours, and we recognise them as such. We must live together in security and stability.”

On the other hand, sceptical analysts can point to a lot of uncompromising statements in Arabic – honouring terrorists; engaging in apparent incitement; characterising Israel as an eternal, zero-sum enemy; and rejecting any Jewish historical connection to Palestine or Jerusalem. This is on top of behaviour vis-à-vis peace talks which seems to indicate an unwillingness – or perhaps political inability – to reach a final deal, or, for the past five years, even negotiate about one.

One recent statement particularly highlights this darker side of the Palestinian leader. In an interview with a Saudi television channel on June 3, Abbas accused Israel of secretly plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. He said, “We’ve said on several occasions that Al-Aqsa is in danger because the excavations Israel is conducting in the Haram (i.e., the Temple Mount) and beneath its foundations put it in danger of collapse… all these actions indicate an evil and dangerous plot to destroy Al-Aqsa and build the alleged Temple.”

There are few more inflammatory things a Palestinian leader could say than this. False accusations about Jewish plots to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque have been the most dangerous tool used to incite anti-Jewish violence since the 1920s, when the then-Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini made these false accusations the core of his effort to unite Palestinians and other Muslims to “resist” the Jewish presence in British-mandate Palestine.

The PLO used similar accusations throughout the 1970s, and Yasser Arafat incited waves of anti-Israel violence specifically on the basis of similar claims in 1997 and again in 2000. In the latter case, the Palestinians called the several years of intense terrorist violence which followed the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” to emphasise that they were supposedly defending the Mosque.

Needless to say, there have never been Israeli excavations under the Temple Mount – all construction projects that Palestinians have ridiculously alleged were “undermining” the Mosque have been outside the Temple Mount boundaries.

Frankly, anyone who makes these claims about the Al-Aqsa Mosque is trying to convert the national conflict into a religious war, incite eternal hatred, and in all likelihood, provoke violence. Thus this claim should rightfully cause re-assessment of Abbas’ willingness to be a genuine peacemaker.

One State that No One Wants

Many supposed advocates for the Palestinian cause demand a “one-state” solution – a “democratic, secular” state in all of “Palestine” for all its residents. This is morally and practically idiotic, denying self-determination rights to both Israelis and Palestinians, while pushing the pipe dream that Israelis and Palestinians will suddenly drop all the animosity of the past 100 years, sing “Kumbaya”, and develop a shared national identity. In fact, many of those who advocate a “one-state solution” do so only because it’s a more politic way to say “Israel must be destroyed” – with some openly saying they expect the resulting state to be purely Palestinian with the Jews largely expelled or fleeing.

Of course, virtually all Israeli Jews oppose the one-state idea – barring tiny fringes on the extreme left and extreme right.

But what about the population whom advocates of one-state claim to be concerned about – the Palestinians. Do Palestinians want a “one-state solution” of the kind their “advocates” demand?

Palestinians were asked in a June poll by the reputable Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) whether they agreed that, in the absence of a two-state solution, they supported “the establishment of one state in all Palestinian areas and Israel, one in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equality.” How many jumped at this idea, which so many advocates and activists insist is the only solution for the needs of Palestinians?

Only 3.6% said they “certainly support” this idea, 25.9% said they “support” it and more than 68% opposed or “certainly opposed” it.

In other words, advocates of a “one-state solution” are not only advocating something obviously impractical and in contradiction to the international law principle of national self-determination, but also something that only small numbers on either side of the conflict wants. They want to force the creation of a “democratic” state which less than 15% of the proposed citizens of that “democratic state” want to come into existence. What a great idea – and how democratic!

One more interesting thing about that PSR poll. You may recall, as I have noted before, that lots of NGOs and academics absurdly continue to insist that Gaza is still “occupied” by Israel even though Israel has not a single soldier or settler anywhere in the strip. But what do the residents of Gaza – who should know – say about this question? Less than 35% of Gazans say that Gaza remains “a territory occupied by Israel.” Most Gazans seem to have more sense than some supposed Western experts.




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