During Condoleezza Rice’s three-hour meeting with Mahmoud Abbas last week in Ramallah, she reportedly “employed a threatening tone.” A Palestinian Authority official said that “We’ve never seen her in such a bad mood.”
Later at a press conference after meeting in a Jerusalem hotel with Abbas and Ehud Olmert, she “briskly walked into . . . the hotel’s main ballroom, gave a vacuous 90-second declaration and unceremoniously left, taking no questions.”
Rice was angry with Abbas for having earlier signed an agreement in Mecca that officially makes his Fatah movement a junior partner of Hamas. Abbas is said to have protested that “the only two options facing me were civil war or national unity, and I chose the second.” Rice apparently didn’t buy it.
Rice’s anger suggests that she has sincerely believed that Abbas is a constructive force who is worth American coddling and encouragement—even to the extent of funding, training, and equipping his militia. The anger, in other words, seems to be a case of empiricism catching up with delusion and denial. It must especially sting that it was the Saudis—whom Rice, the State Department, and the U.S. generally are always trying to impress by demonstrating their tenderness toward the Palestinians—who pressured Abbas into formally capitulating to Hamas and further enshrining the latter as the Palestinian standard-bearer.
It’s hard, after all, to see why Rice—ostensibly a conservative and not a fluttery-hearted liberal—got so disappointed in her Palestinian charge. There has always been much information available showing his lack of moderacy and total lack of interest in complying with the road map.
There is the fact that, since becoming PA president in January 2005—a year before the elections that swept Hamas to victory—he has never lifted a finger to “arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis” as the road map requires.
Even under Arafat’s rule terrorists were sometimes arrested and jailed before being let out through the revolving door. Under Abbas, not even that much. Instead, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade of his Fatah movement remains a central and active component of Palestinian terror. Just last January 29 it openly took credit along with Islamic Jihad for the suicide bombing in Eilat.
When Abbas made statements in recent weeks like “We should put our internal fighting aside and raise our rifles only against the Israeli occupation” and “We must unite the Hamas and Fatah blood in the struggle against Israel as we did at the beginning of the intifada,” Abbas-opponents who still thought facts played any role in this debate hoped some of the Abbas-backers—Rice, for instance—would take heed. But she didn’t, and so is outraged that he not only signed the deal in Mecca but, when she confronted him, defended it.
She could, instead, have taken more seriously the content of Palestinian education under Fatah and Abbas. After two years of Abbas’s presidency, Palestinian Media Watch reports that “in many respects, [the] new books for Grade 12, written by Fatah-appointed Palestinian educators, are the worst of the textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authority since 2000.” These books “deny Israel’s right to exist, anticipate its destruction and define the conflict with Israel as religious, not merely territorial.” They “teach World War II without the Holocaust.” Now why would this—the cultivation of Palestinian anti-Israeli hatred for generations to come—still be happening, and even have intensified, under Abbas’s presidency if he’s a moderate?
Of course, one is not even supposed to mention in polite company Abbas’s own 1983 opus The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which maintains that “only a few hundred thousand Jews” were killed in the Holocaust and those mostly through collusion between the Nazis and the Zionists. But do Rice and so many others like her think that Holocaust-denial denial comes with no price attached?
Would Rice herself vote for a public figure—even a candidate for small-town mayor—who had written such a book? Do such people gain legitimacy in the United States at all? Does Rice believe that Abbas’s being a Palestinian absolves him of such moral standards and that, having been absolved, he would never disappoint her?
What, after all, was Abbas doing in all those years before he became a cherished “moderate” of the Palestinian Authority? He was working right alongside Arafat, the cardinal terrorist of the twentieth century. He cofounded Fatah with Arafat and may have financed the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes. At the very least, he stayed with Arafat all the way through the airplane hijackings, the brutal murder of American diplomats in Khartoum, the Coastal Road bloodbath in Israel, the slaughter of Christian communities in Lebanon—the list goes on and on.
America is supposed to be fighting a War on Terror. Would it openly embrace as an ally someone who had worked in close cahoots for years with Bin Laden or Hassan Nasrallah? Would it expect such a person to behave peaceably and responsibly and then be shocked when he openly formed an alliance with other terrorists?
Whatever the extent of Rice’s frustration, it is not yet great enough for her to kick the Abbas-habit. She told the “traveling US press” that “both the U.S. and Israel want to deal with [Abbas’s administration] for as long as they can, in the hope that it will eventually bring about a change” in the Hamas-dominated government and legislature. Olmert, for his part, said “both he and his staff would keep meeting Abbas and his staff.”
One wonders what Abbas would have to do for Rice and Olmert finally to see him differently. Meanwhile, the ongoing Abbas-delusion is a large part of why a U.S. administration sworn to fight terror keeps encouraging the weakest tendencies in Israel, why the jihadist buildup in Gaza continues undisturbed, why Israel keeps living in hair-trigger peril with suicide bombings thwarted almost daily. Does this policy at least influence Washington’s “Arab allies” toward what it views as moderacy? Ask the Saudis.