Abbas Speech -- On Drama and Melodrama

The build-up was near perfect, as if devised by an experienced Hollywood director. The headlines were all about war-like scenarios, a ''bombshell'' and whatnot, somewhat strange considering the fact that Mahmoud Abbas is presented as a man of peace, contrary to the ''belligerent'' Israelis. Near, but not really perfect, because the not so veiled threats failed to shake the Netanyahu government , and the PM himself. Somehow, the Israelis, not always known for being reserved and tight-lipped in face of verbal tirades, were exactly that. Simply no official response from Jerusalem, leaving the arena open for Netanyahu's own speech. Nor did the manufactured drama triggered any American response, as could be judged by the speech of President Obama, which ignored the Israeli-Palestinian situation altogether, something which led to very bitter and acrimonious Palestinian reactions.

These are not good times for the Palestinian cause in general, and the Palestinian Authority in particular. Raising the Palestinian flag in front of the UN building is definitely a PR coup, and a possible morale booster, but the Palestinians have already noticed, at least they should, that winning PR battles is far cry from transforming them into tangible results on the ground. In the Middle East today, the Palestinian issue is very low on the list of real pressing problems. It is the dismantling of Syria and Iraq, refugees, ISIS and Iran and its growing influence which are uppermost on the minds of Arab leaders and the world community at large. Sure, Arab leaders do talk in the UN about the Palestinian problem, and it is not mere rhetoric, or just lip service, but in fairness, not much more than that. Nor is Abbas having good times within his own authority. His leadership is under heavy pressure, mostly from the former strong man of Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan, but also from other contenders to his succession, as well as from Hamas in Gaza and also in the West Bank. So, when the flames are high already, why not throw more petrol into the fire, and start an inflammatory campaign against Israel, and that is exactly what Abbas and his cronies have been busy doing recently, raising the specter of another intifada. It is in this context, that we should view the verbal campaign ahead of the speech, and more importantly, the violence which is raging in Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is well orchestrated by elements connected with the Palestinian Authority. Still, Abbas is an important leader, and though prone to resort to dangerous rhetoric,he is to be regarded with respect, something which the Israelis, in particular, are required never to lose sight of, as he is the partner they have among the Palestinians.

That said, the speech contained the usual Palestinian charges about Israeli policies, with an emphasis on Jerusalem. Fewer places in the entire world, if any, are more volatile than the most precious piece of real estate in the entire world, which is Temple Mount, and the Old City of Jerusalem. Blaming Israel for inciting a religious war there is blown out of all proportions, simply the opposite of the truth, and Netanyahu may be on safe ground here , as he is attacked in Israel for what seems to many of his own supporters, as a weak position with regard to the rights of Jews there. So, it may be that he is in a good place in the middle. All the concerned leaders should be very careful in relating to Jerusalem, and it seems that King Abdullah of Jordan a few days ago and Abbas crossed the line. Surely, the reference to the agreements with Israel, and not abiding by them so long as Israel does not, is a sort of a bombshell, but not really. Things like this were said before, including the reference to the Hague International Court. These are not helpful statements, to say the very least, and now the ball is in the Netanyahu court.

The Israeli leader is speaking to his own domestic audience in the first place, only then to the rest of the world. Many in his coalition were waiting for Abbas to drop a much bigger bombshell than the implicit threat to shy away from the Oslo Accords, and they will still try to capitalize on the speech and its aggressive contents as a justification to put pressure on Netanyahu, but it may be that what would serve the PM better, as well as the real national interest of Israel, will be to pour some cold water on the Abbas rhetoric, acting like the one responsible leader in such an unruly environment. Easier said than done though.