by Michael Freund
Flu season may be upon us, but it appears that Mahmoud Abbas has come down with a far more serious ailment. Based on his peculiar behavior of late, the Palestinian leader is clearly suffering from political schizophrenia.
Just a few weeks after threatening to resign from his post as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas has now indicated that he intends to pursue a unilateral declaration of statehood.
"The Palestinian leadership calls on the world to support this step," said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday, as Abbas left for Egypt before heading off on a tour of South America to drum up international backing for the move.
And so, the man who barely a month ago was ready to throw in the towel has now decided to throw down the gauntlet. First he vows to sail off into retirement, and then he tries to crown himself president of an independent state, in the process tossing aside any chance of a negotiated peace.
Abbas's volatile and unstable behavior should put to rest once and for all the notion that he is a viable partner with whom
But the chairman's volatility is more than just a quirky personality issue or an unruly psychological phenomenon. It is a potent and dangerous reminder of the ease with which the Palestinians can generate international pressure on
Indeed, the Palestinian leader's zigzag has had the effect of casting the spotlight sharply on the contentious issue of the fate of Judea and
Furthermore, it will mark the end of the peace process as we know it, which has been predicated on the basic assumption that the two sides would negotiate the final outcome with each other rather than predetermine it.
Abbas's attempt to vault towards statehood on his own, with utter disregard for Israel and its position, is a sure enough sign that he wishes to bury any chance of returning to talks.
For far too long,
In light of Abbas's latest charade, it is clear that
We need to send a clear message to our foes, one that will put them on the defensive and strengthen
OVER THE past 16 years, nothing has been gained by keeping the settlements issue on the table. Nor has dangling the possibility of expelling masses of Jews from their homes along the lines of Gush Katif brought the Palestinians any closer to making a deal.
Instead, it has only served to whet the Palestinian appetite for more land, and subjected hundreds of thousands of Israelis to intolerable uncertainty regarding their future.
More importantly, it will at last delineate the Israeli stance on the final disposition of these communities. This will effectively close off the troublesome debate within Israeli society over the future of the settlements, which has bred so much division and disunity, and ultimately enable us to present a more unified stance vis-à-vis the rest of the world.
In recent days, a number of leading Israeli politicians have thankfully begun to voice such proposals. The talented and articulate environment minister, Gilad Erdan of the Likud, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that if the Palestinians adopt a unilateral stance, then
Likewise, Likud MK Danny Danon called for annexing all of Judea and
Of course, annexation should not merely be viewed as a tit-for-tat response to unilateral Palestinian moves, for that casts it in a negative light, presenting it as merely a punitive or retaliatory measure.
In reality, annexation is justified for the simple reason that this land belongs to us, and to nobody else. The act of asserting Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish communities of Judea and
These areas are ours by Divine right, and we should not shy away from asserting as much. The Palestinians do not hesitate to invoke their beliefs, so why on earth should we? Just think how refreshing it would be to hear an Israeli leader stand up and declare this most elementary of truths to the world: that the
Who knows - maybe if we finally stand on principle and start affirming our faith, then perhaps we will at last begin to earn the respect and support that we so rightly deserve.
Michael Freund writes the Fundamentally Freund column for the Jerusalem Post. He served as deputy director of communications & policy planning in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office under Benjamin Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999. He is founder and chairman of Shavei
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