President Donald Trump appeared to rebuke Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at least three times in their joint statement on Wednesday.
First, at the beginning of his remarks, Trump recalled the Oslo Accords:
Almost 24 years ago, it was on these grounds that President Abbas stood with a courageous peacemaker, then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Here at the White House, President Abbas signed a Declaration of Principles — very important — which laid the foundation for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The President — Mr. President, you signed your name to the first Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. You remember that well, right? And I want to support you in being the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability, and prosperity to both peoples and to the region.
Trump is saying here, “you committed to making peace, I expect you to follow through.” Notice that he didn’t call Yasser Arafat a peacemaker either.
In the very next paragraph Trump delivered his next rebuke:
I’m committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement. But any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States, or by any other nation. The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship, and thrive and prosper in peace. And I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement — to mediate, to arbitrate anything they’d like to do. But I would love to be a mediator or an arbitrator or a facilitator. And we will get this done.
Trump says that he’ll act as a facilitator, but “any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States, or by any other nation.” He’s signalling that he won’t cover for Abbas’s intransigence like his predecessor did.
In a conference call with reporters earlier this week, former negotiator Amb. Dennis Ross observed that Abbas boasted in the Palestinian media of saying “no” to President Barack Obama a dozen times. Despite this, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry consistently blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for blocking progress to making peace. (And yes we know that it was Abbas who torpedoed Kerry’s 2013-2014 peace initiative.)
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 3, 2017
Perhaps the most direct rebuke delivered to Abbas was when Trump mentioned incitement:
But there cannot be lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violate — and violence and hate. There’s such hatred. But hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long. All children of God must be taught to value and respect human life, and condemn all of those who target the innocent.
Oddly, two media reports I saw somehow missed that this was a criticism of Abbas.
Here’s The Washington Post’s report:
Trump also warned that “there can be no lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice” and renounce violence and hate — a reference to the split between the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, and the militant Hamas group, which controls the Gaza Strip.
The New York Times was worse:
He did encourage Mr. Abbas to do more to discourage Palestinian incitement against Israelis. “There can be no lasting peace unless Palestinian leaders speak with a unified voice against incitement to violence and hate,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s such hatred. But hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long.”
Mr. Abbas insisted that Palestinians were not preaching hatred. “I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace,” he said, a contention that Israeli officials would vehemently reject.
Neither of these accounts acknowledge that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are guilty of incitement and the Times compounds the problem by citing Abbas’s phony denial. If one looks at the records of Abbas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority, it is clear that Abbas is lying. It isn’t only “Israeli officials” who would feel that way, but any sentient being.
Another thing to pay attention to. I have no idea if Trump was getting a simultaneous translation when Abbas was talking, but watch his body language. It looks that as Abbas droned on and on, Trump looked like he’d rather be anyplace else.
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