The Israeli public has been “brainwashed” by its government’s criticism of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas into believing there is no peace partner on the Palestinian side, former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh charged in an interview published over the weekend.
“The Israeli public has undergone brainwashing in recent years, so that even if Abbas says something right, no one listens to him,” Sneh told the Al-Monitor website. “This, in my view, is more of a failure of the opposition than an achievement by the government. I’m going to say something harsh, and I don’t care if I’m attacked for it: The propaganda and brainwashing that the Israeli public has undergone on the Palestinian issue are Goebbelsian in style. This is Goebbelsian propaganda,” said Sneh, a former IDF brigadier general and two-time Labor cabinet minister, in a reference to the infamous Nazi minister of propaganda.
Some Israeli ministers on the right have railed against Abbas, calling him an advocate of terrorism and an anti-Semite. In January, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told a national security think tank in Tel Aviv that “while Abu Mazen (Abbas) doesn’t fund terrorism, he who was a Holocaust denier in his youth now denies the very existence of the Jewish people and their right to a state.”
He was likely referring to Abbas’s doctoral dissertation, written in the early 1980s, which questioned the number of Jewish victims who perished in the Holocaust and was titled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism.”
“We must not deceive ourselves,” Steinitz said at the time. “There is no peace process. There is a diplomatic process… it has some chances, it has significance, but to my great sadness we’re not seeing even the faintest signs that the other side, and the Palestinian leadership, truly intends to make peace.”
On Saturday, in remarks to the PLO’s Central Council, Abbas reiterated Palestinian demands for continued talks – freezing settlement construction, freeing Palestinian terror convicts and beginning discussion on the borders of a promised Palestinian state – leading an Israeli official to charge that the Palestinian leader had “administered the coup de grace to the peace process today.”
Such comments, heard from the likes of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and others, have led Israelis to “despair,” Sneh charged.
In fact, he argued, “the situation is the opposite of what is presented by the Israeli propaganda…. As we know, it was Abbas who, in the Second Intifada, spoke out very courageously against the violence and against [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat. He has traditionally objected to violence. So the minute the public hears more and more of these things, it trickles down.”
Abbas “deeply wants to reach an agreement because he’s in an ideal position to do so. Hamas is today the biggest enemy of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab] Emirates; Syria has been riven by a terrible war and Hamas has been expelled from there. This is an ideal situation. Contrary to the way he’s portrayed, Abbas is not weak.”
Sneh criticized Abbas for the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement announced last Wednesday, which led Israel to freeze US-brokered peace talks on Thursday, calling the surprise Palestinian announcement “a confrontational and stupid move.
“It calms his street, and I can understand that. But what happens in the meantime? On the one hand, there will be no reconciliation — and Bibi [Netanyahu] knows it as well — and on the other hand, Abbas gave him the excuse he’s been looking for,” he said.
“This unimportant reconciliation is meaningless, and the experts know it. Because when Egypt designates Hamas a terrorist organization, Abbas is the one to pick [Hamas Prime Minister] Ismail Haniyeh and [Hamas political bureau chief] Khaled Mashaal off the floor,” Sneh told Al-Monitor.