It was the 16th of September when Mahmoud Abbas set off the recent troubles in Israel by escalating a national dispute into a religious one with his call to protect the Temple Mount from the Jews who he claimed were “desecrating Al Aqsa with their dirty feet”.
On the national/territorial level, Abbas and the entire so called “moderate” Palestinian leadership have been educating their people for generations, that the Jewish State would disappear, whilst telling the West that they wanted a 2 State solution.
Abbas was in a bind as he was approaching what he had promised would be his “bombshell speech” some two weeks later to the UN General Assembly, but he had nothing to deliver.
He needed a diversion.
That is the key to where we are today.
In 2000 when Arafat did not want to accept the Barak/Clinton Two State Plan he too needed a diversion and initiated the 2nd Intifada.
So Abbas’ learnt from his master but played it smarter with a new double game – incitement and social media promoted lies against the Jews whilst having his security forces co-operate in fighting organised terrorist acts.
The result is that we have the so called “lone wolf” stabbings and shootings rather than organised mass demonstrations and centrally co-ordinated violence.
Different from the 2nd Intifada, but for the same reason, to once again help the Palestinians avoid making the deal that Israel repeatedly offers – and that the Palestinians claim to want – Two States for Two Peoples.
Just a few days ago Israel’s Channel 10, as part of their 3 part series on the peace talks between Prime Minister Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas and their subsequent breakdown in 2008, broadcast an interview between reporter Raviv Drucker and Mahmoud Abbas.
At 24 minutes and 5 seconds into the interview the following exchange takes place:
Raviv Drucker asks Abbas: “In the map that Olmert presented you, Israel would annex 6.3 percent [of the West Bank] and compensate the Palestinians with 5.8 percent [taken from pre-1967 Israel]. What did you propose in return?”
“I did not agree,” Abbas replied. “I rejected it out of hand.”
As Abba Eban once famously said, the Arabs have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The difference today is that we now know it is not a miscalculation on their part, but rather an unwillingness to make any deal at all.
Whether one agrees with the status quo on the Temple Mount or not – an arrangement where both Jews and Arabs can visit but only Arabs are allowed to pray – it is the deal that all Israeli Prime Ministers including Netanyahu commit to and adhere to.
Whether one agrees with settlement expansion or not, this Prime Minister, as has been discussed previously, even boasts that he builds less than anyone and that what is built is almost exclusively restricted to being inside the settlement blocks that Israel will keep as part of any Two State solution.
Despite Israel taking no antagonistic steps on either the religious or territorial fronts, Abbas decided to leave no doubt about his desires to continue the incitement and to make clearer the point that he is attacking the validity of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and a Jewish State of any size at all, when the official Palestinian television network released Abbas’ speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 28th of October:
“Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, haven’t you wondered: For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years (i.e., Israel’s creation), how long? Do you think it can last, and that it benefits the Palestinian people?”
(The) holy sites which have been desecrated every other second again and again for seven decades now under an occupation that does not quit killing, torturing, looting and imprisoning…”
On the 9th of November we saw the meeting between PM Netanyahu and President Obama where Bibi started dealing with the new reality even pre Paris, but post the downing of the Russian airliner by ISIS.
In his talks with Obama, Bibi: restated his commitment to a Two State for Two People solution; apologised for his election call to Jewish voters to counter the Arab turnout; stated that whilst a negotiated agreement was preferable, unilateral steps where possible subject to Israeli security criteria; made no mention of the deal with Iran; and then asked Obama for a 60% increase in US aid to Israel.
He has his eye on the bigger strategic game.
Israel and the Jewish People are in danger of paying some price for the battle between two evils.
The evil of Sunni extremism as represented currently by ISIS and the evil of Shiite extremism as led by Iran and conducted via her proxies such as Hezbollah and Assad.
The truth is that the names do not matter.
Past and future Islamist organisations, Sunni or Shiite, with all of their hatred for each other, are united on quite a number of things: the desire to force their version of Sharia law on foreign populations; opposition to democracy; opposition to Western values and human rights as we know and understand them; opposition to the existence of the State of Israel; and with a large dose of anti-Semitism thrown in.
Because of the appalling terror attacks in France, the world is lining up, at least in the short term, with Shiite extremism, to fight Sunni extremism.
Make no mistake, whilst this may or may not defeat Sunni extremism, it is entrenching and strengthening Shiite extremism.
Arguably whilst ISIS can mount terror attacks, the bigger danger to future world order lies in the much more powerful state sponsored attempts to spread Sharia law via Shiite Iran.
ISIS is a Sunni extremist evil that can cause death and fear, but is not an existential threat.
Shiite Iran on the other hand has a proper army, air force and missiles and may yet develop a nuclear weapon.
Whilst we empathise with the terrible situation in France, the basic truth is that the French do not empathise with us.
In France’s eyes – and in that of many/most Western countries when France is attacked, it is because the terrorists are wrong.
But when Israel is attacked it must be because of something Israel has done wrong.
In the case of Europe, the focus is on the victim.
When it comes to Israel the focus is on how the victim responds.
France is projected as the home of freedom and democracy.
How ironic it is that an Arab woman in Israel has more rights to express her religious beliefs than an Arab woman in France.
Laws passed by France in 2004 and 2010 for instance, outlaw the wearing of the hijab in public places.
By constantly endorsing pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli policies, France has been seeking to appease Islamic countries.
France seemed convinced that such policies would keep Muslim terrorists from targeting French nationals and interests.
The French are now in grave danger of mistakenly believing that the November 13 attacks occurred because France did not appease Islamic countries enough.
And once again, Abbas’s Western-funded loyalists are hoping to convince the world that there are “good” and “bad” terrorists. The good terrorists are those who murder Jews, while the bad terrorists are those who target French citizens.
The mega-attack in Paris changes, in the short run, the nature of the international debate over Syria’s future.
The West wanted to have it both ways – to destroy ISIS and to oust Assad’s regime, through minor military intervention and limited aid to the opposition organisations and Kurds.
The events in Paris will change the list of priorities.
Now, first of all ISIS.
Everything else will have to wait, perhaps even be forgotten.
This is good news for Iran, Assad’s patron and the enemy of ISIS.
It’s good news for Assad and for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And in large part because of the Obama led vacuum.
A coalition of countries, including Australia, that centres around the activist anti-Semite Erdogan of Turkey, the acceptance of an increased Shiite extremist influence led by Iran and a desire by the USA et al to vacate the space, leaves Israel battling twin evils where the world currently sees only one.
We are indeed facing a situation of the evil of two lessers.
Thank G-d we can take comfort from the words of ex Mossad Head Ephraim Halevy – “Israel is indestructible”.
Am Yisrael Chai
Dr Ron Weiser AM
ZFA Public Affairs Chairman