Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas angered millions of Palestinians worldwide when he said on Israeli television last week that he does not intend to go back to the town of his birth “Safad”as a resident, because it is now Israel. He added that although he is a refugee, Palestine for him is only the 1967 borders of the West Bank and Gaza, and anything else is Israel.
Abbas added insult to injury when he later clarified his statement saying that what he said on Israeli television represented his personal views and not an official policy. Abbas clearly does not understand that leadership responsibility should not divide public statements by public officials and leaders into personal and official statements.
Palestinian around world were quick to condemn Abbas's statement accusing him of betrayal of millions of Palestinian refugees around the world. From a moral perspective, it is unbecoming of a Palestinian leader who is supposed to defend the interests of his people and represent their aspirations to return to their homes and towns to surrender that right on Israeli television using himself as an example.
Abbas could have talked to the Israeli public about the historic injustices that Palestinian refugees went through and defended the Palestinian interests and positions. He could also have addressed the need to deal with the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees who are stuck in miserable refugee camps in inhospitable Arab countries. But Abbas, uninterested in all of that ,simply did not even use these issues as a negotiation leverage, choosing instead to put himself and his people under the Israeli bus.
In addition, for Abbas to speak directly to the Israeli public in this manner is rather naive and stupefying on part of the Palestinian leadership and a free gift to Israeli politicians. It also shows that the current Palestinian leaders are bankrupt and have reached rock bottom and have nothing else to offer to their people.
Already Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploited Abbas statement and clarification accusing him of being not serious and cannot be trusted.
The current secular Palestinian leadership, moreover, had stacked all of its cards on its Oslo “peace process” with Israel two decades ago, that was supposed to lead to the establishment of Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. What came out of it, however, was a semi-autonomous populated areas where the Palestinian authority run the civil administration while Israeli retains overall military control and maintain its occupation. As a result the Palestinians have spent all of their cartridges with Israel and have nothing else to offer the Israelis as far as negotiations are concerned. Israeli leaders, therefore, feel that there is no need to be talking to the Palestinians at all beyond cosmetic meetings, or settle the conflict beyond its current arrangement.
The irony and sadly for the Palestinians, Israeli leaders have offered the same deal the Palestinians accepted in Oslo in 1993, to the late King Hussein in 1969. King Hussein, however, refused the Israeli offer on the ground that he will not allow himself to be the Arab face of the Israeli occupation.
Politically, this move on part of Abbas shows that the man has reached the end of the road of his tainted career and has nothing else to offer his people.
One of the problems that has plagued the Palestinian people since the conflict began first with the Zionist movement and later Israel is that they had a very lousy leadership from the start.
Hamas the religious counterpart to other Palestinian groups did not waste anytime to settle scores with Abbas over this issue and exploited it to its advantage. Hamas and its leaders are not any better than Abbas and his Fatah organization. Hamas is also tainted by corruption and abusing the Palestinian people in Gaza and very much interested in keeping Gaza for itself and the Palestinians divided. Ultimately, this will only benefit Israel.
Ali Younes is a writer and analyst based in Washington DC. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org, and @clearali