Abbas — unfiltered and alone
Hebrew media review

Abbas — unfiltered and alone

Local media devotes much of its coverage to the fiery remarks by the PA president on the death of the Oslo Accords and his views on Zionism

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s mini-lecture on his heavily skewed take on the history of the Zionist movement has the Hebrew-language media riled up, and while condemnation of the views expressed by the old statesman is near-unanimous, the conclusions drawn from the affair differ from publication to publication.

“Abu Mazen [Abbas] tore off his mask,” reads Israel Hayom’s headline, quote-marked and attributed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As if to solidify the notion that Abbas’s words have revealed his true colors to Israelis across the political board, the daily presents an op-ed critical of the Palestinian leader written by Yossi Beilin, an undoubtedly left-leaning public figure who was key to the establishment of the Oslo Accords for a final settlement between Israel and a Palestinians.

“A president does not talk like that, even if it is the language of the masses,” Beilin writes, referring to Abbas’s assertion that the State of Israel was formed as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism” to safeguard European interests. “Abbas continues to speak as if he holds no cards, but the truth is that he holds some strong cards that he is simply not using,” adds Beilin, shifting his critique toward the ineffectiveness of the Palestinian Authority president’s tactics. “He has the power to announce that the Palestinians are ready to give up on the two-state solution, and that all they demand is to be part of Israel, as equal citizens. But instead of shocking us he would rather trick us and make us deal with explanations to his cursing.”

On the other end, far right contributor Amnon Lord turns to insults, arguing that Abbas’s statements proved the Palestinian leader is a “loser” who found himself isolated and alone as the Trump administration in Washington has turned its back on the understandings and diplomacy that characterized the years Barack Obama was in office.

In Haaretz, however, the paper’s main editorial agrees that Abbas’s speech stems from a deep desperation over the Palestinian situation, though the daily does not share Lord’s feeling of schadenfreude. “On the face of it, Abbas handed a bill of divorce to the administration of US President Donald Trump, and said loudly and clearly that it is Israel which caused the collapse of the Oslo Accords, and that from now on he will refuse any American mediation,” the editorial explains, warning the Israeli leadership that this not necessarily good news.

“This is not a zero-sum game in which Palestinian despair is an advantage for Israel. On the contrary, the Israeli government must see Abbas’s words as a final warning before the PA’s disintegration, a step that would impose responsibility for the Palestinians’ lives on Israel’s shoulders, in every sphere. At that point, the government won’t be able to wash its hands of the problem and seize on Abbas speech as a defense.”

Yedioth Ahronoth steers clear of the Abbas controversy, and instead mounts an all-out offensive against the wage raise for government ministers that was approved by the Knesset on Sunday. The paper prominently features coverage of disabled people’s angered reactions to news that Knesset ministers will receive a NIS 5,000 raise in their monthly salary paycheck, at a time when handicapped individuals are still fighting for a raise in their stipend. Yedioth’s writers also criticize the approval, noting that while there is no doubt that the ministers deserve to be paid in accordance with their status, the move still seems tone-deaf.

“Instead of deciding that the discussion about wages is off limits, and should be passed to an outside and approved committee, one again the cat is the one that decides where to allocate the cream,” writes Chen Sror-Artzi. “We never see an IDF chief of staff, a High Court judge, or a police commissioner discussing a raise in their salary, because it is clear as daylight that such a move would be antithetical to everything these people are meant [to broadcast to the public]… The public is the employer of the public servants, and this gap between the way that they view themselves, and the way that they view us, is simply insufferable,” the writer concludes.

Finally, Yedioth reports that aside from all the fame and adoration Israel’s own Wonder Woman Gal Gadot can already bask in, the cinema superstar now also may relish knowing that a movie theater in the northern city of Nazareth Ilit will bear her name. “In naming [the theater] for Gal Gadot I hope to send a message to thousands of young Israelis that they should never hesitate to dream big, and that dreams do come true,” Nazareth Ilit Mayor Ronen Plot said during an event to mark the opening of the cinema.

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