by Khaled Abu Toameh
A number of senior Palestinian officials who do not have much credibility among their own people are now trying to sell themselves to Israelis as "partners for peace."
This is the same group of Palestinians who in the past advised Yasser Arafat to reject then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer during the botched Camp David summit in 2000. They were among Arafat's inner circle when he walked out of the Camp David summit and initiated the "Second Intifada."
These are also the same officials who, back then, justified the eruption of the intifada as a "natural response" to Israel's refusal to comply with 100% of the Palestinians' demands.
Saeb Erekat, Jibril Rajoub and Yasser Abed Rabbo are now trying to persuade the Israeli public that Israel does have partners for peace on the Palestinian side. And who are the new-old partners? Erekat, Rajoub and Abed Rabbo, of course.
With the help of US taxpayers' dollars, the three, together with other Palestinian officials, are sending their "peace" messages to the Israelis in English. The campaign, according to Palestinians, is being funded by the US Agency for International Development [USAID].
The campaign targets only the Israeli public. No similar messages are being sent to the Palestinians despite promises that they would.
It would have been more effective had the campaign, which some say costs about $250,000, been directed also toward the Palestinian public.
What is wrong with funding a campaign directed toward the Palestinians with a message that talks about peace, coexistence, compromise and cooperation with Israel?: Isn't there also a need to address the Palestinians about the need for peace and compromise?
Ironically, the same officials who are offering themselves to Israelis as "peace partners," are, at the same time, telling Palestinians -- in Arabic -- that Israel does not want peace. The tone in the Palestinian media remains as anti-Israel as ever.
In just the past week, Palestinian Authority officials have even escalated their rhetoric by issuing daily threats to withdraw from the US-sponsored direct talks that were launched in Washington last week.
In Arabic, Mahmoud Abbas and his top officials are telling Palestinians that they would never make "even one concession" to Israel during the peace talks. In Arabic, they are saying that they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will never relinquish the right of return of millions of refugees to Israel, and will never make any compromises on Jerusalem.
In Arabic, they are also telling the Palestinians that Israel is not serious about peace, and that there is no real partner for peace in Israel.
In English, however, the same officials are telling the Israelis that they are ready to display flexibility and make "sacrifices" for the sake of peace.
Rajoub, Abed Rabbo and Erekat belong to an era that many Palestinians would like to forget. These are the same officials who failed their people time and again since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
"General" Rajoub headed a notorious security agency that did not hesitate to persecute, intimidate and torture Palestinians. Erekat was elected in January 2006 as a legislator representing the smallest district in the West Bank: Jericho. Abed Rabbo heads a one-man party that broke away from the Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Officials who do not have much credibility among their own people are now asking Israelis to believe in them. They are doing that in English and with the assistance of US taxpayers' money.Before seeking the Israel's confidence, they should first be seeking their own people's trust.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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