Op-Ed: Gilbert & Sullivan in "Palestine"
Yonatan SilvermanThe author is a professional translator from Hebrew to English. He is the author of For the World to See:The Life of Margaret Bourke White. He operates the online newsletter SARTABA.
The schemes and maneuvers of the Palestinian Authority, especially since they closed the door on bilateral negotiations with Israel in 2009, are just frivolous and even farcical.
The things they do and say may stab Israel in the back diplomatically, but they have no practical purpose. The schemes and maneuvers the Palestinian Authority has implemented since 2009 will gain them absolutely nothing.
Bilateral negotiations are the only path to a permanent settlement of the problem. Over the last few weeks however, the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has taken a dive off the frivolous and farcical plane into Gilbert and Sullivan government-lampooning comedy.
It all started with a very dramatic letter Abbas wrote to PM Netanyahu, ostensibly as a last ditch effort to restart negotiations. The letter was revised many times and one big revision apparently was Abbas’s change of mind about dismantling the Palestinian Authority. He withdrew that threat. Among other things, Abbas wrote in the letter that Israel’s actions have stripped the Palestinian Authority of its “raison d'etre”, creating a reality which cannot continue.
“As a result of actions taken by successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian National Authority no longer has any authority, and no meaningful jurisdiction in the political, economic, territorial and security spheres,” says the letter.
The letter also explicitly states the PA’s demands for renewing negotiations with Israel:
Abbas asks Israel to outline “as soon as possible” its positions on four key issues: the principle of a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders, halting all settlement activity, releasing PA prisoners, and the revocation of all decisions which undermine agreements between the two sides since 2000.
And this is precisely where this episode descends from an international political issue to musical comedy in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The PA demands are in the form of an ultimatum to Israel.
An Abbas spokesperson said that the PA was ready to restart negotiations with Israel if Jerusalem responds positively to the list of Palestinians demands outlined in the letter by Abbas and relayed to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Otherwise, the PA will resume efforts to unilaterally achieve UN recognition of the Palestinian state, and move to isolate Israeli. "occupation" policies by exposing their real effects on Palestinians living in the West Bank, the spokesperson warned.
Of course, these threats are as hollow as a plugged nickel. But this is the sort of parlor drama the Palestinians perform and for which they obtain world recognition. Go figure.
It seems few in the world were paying attention, however, to the truly ridiculous scenario that developed surrounding the delivery of Abbas’s vaunted letter to Netanyahu.
The meeting with Netanyahu in which the letter was to be delivered was supposed to be attended by Fayyad, Erekat and the PA’s intelligence chief, Majed Faraj. Netanyahu was accompanied by his long-time envoy, Yitzhak Molkho.
But at the last minute, Fayyad backed out, citing as his reason the fact the meeting coincided with Palestinian prisoner’s day hunger strikes.
One source quoted Fayyad as saying, “I don’t work as a postman for Abbas and Fatah.”
So Erekat handed Netanyahu the Abbas letter, and the prime minister stated he would send his answer in two weeks.
But now comes the operetta's denouement. Abbas became angry with Fayyad for failing to attend the high level meeting and hand deliver his letter to Netanyahu.
Consequently, Abbas refused to answer Fayyad's calls, and the presidential office refrained from scheduling a meeting between the two to decide on changes in Fayyad's government.
PA President Abbas has also moved to censor Palestinian websites that are critical of his leadership.
Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem is reporting that at least 8 websites have been taken offline by PalTel, the Palestinian telecommunications company, using specialized software, under the direction of Abbas.
The officials of the Palestinian Authority are showing their true colors. They are exposing the fact that the governing administration of the Palestinian Arab population in the West Bank is fascist and totalitarian. Democracy isn’t even part of their diction, despite the fact they periodically hold bogus and illegitimate elections.
The plague of PA censorship of critical websites is a prime emblem of fascist and totalitarian governments. Repressive regimes live and breathe on a tissue of vicious lies. Information sources that oppose them and threaten to expose these lies are instant targets for censorship and closure. If the totalitarian PA lives and breathes on lying in this way to its own people – just imagine the whoppers they are constantly spinning to the nation of Israel.
No one seems to know if this tempest in the PA teapot has blown over or whether Abbas continues to give Fayyad the cold shoulder.
But the Donor Nations have definitely taken note of the controversy. They warned Abbas not to try removing Fayyad from his position as PA finance minister. Meanwhile, PA and Fatah officials in Ramallah refused to discuss the Abbas-Fayyad tensions in public.
However, some Fatah officials pointed out that the rivalry between the two men was not new and that tensions between them have existed for some time now. The officials noted that Fayyad had opposed Abbas’s statehood bid at the UN in September 2011 or the way the PA president was handling the issue of reconciliation with Hamas.
“President Abbas appointed Fayyad and he is the only one who could fire him or keep him in power,” said Fatah legislator Najat Abu Baker.
Unfortunately, Abu Baker’s statement above is a cover-up and distortion of Fayyad’s position as PA prime minister:
On January 25, 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the legislature of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas won these elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council and the terror organization’s leader Ismail Haniyeh became prime minister.
Then Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, resigned, but at the request of President Mahmoud Abbas, remained as interim Prime Minister until February 19, when newly elected prime minister Haniyeh formed the new government.
Hamas terrorist entry into the Palestinian Authority government triggered sanctions. The 2006–2007 economic sanctions against the Palestinian Authority were imposed by Israel and the Quartet on the Middle East against the Palestinian Authority and their territories.
President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Haniyeh from office on 14 June 2007 at the height of the Hamas bloody coup for control of Gaza, but Haniyeh did not acknowledge the decree and continues to exercise prime ministerial authority in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Legislative Council also continues to recognize his authority.
On 14 June 2007, Abbas appointed Salem Fayyad in Haniyeh’s place. This followed action by Hamas armed forces to take control of Gaza. The appointment of Fayyad to replace Haniyeh has been challenged as illegal however, because under the Palestinian Authority Basic Law, the President of the Palestinian Authority may dismiss a sitting prime minister, but may not appoint a replacement without the approval of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
According to the law, until a new prime minister is thus appointed, the outgoing prime minister heads a caretaker government.
Fayyad's appointment was never placed before, or approved, by the Legislative Council. For this reason, Haniyeh has continued to operate in Gaza, and been recognized by a large number of Palestinians as the legitimate acting prime minister.
Anis al-Qasem, the Palestinian constitutional lawyer who drafted the Basic Law, is among those who publicly declared the appointment of Fayyad to be illegal.
What this episode says simply about the PA and its key players is that their corruption and manipulation are so thick you can cut themt with a knife.
If Abbas were to appoint Winston Churchill himself as the PA prime minister, there can be no doubt but that even a venerable world leader of Churchill’s stature would not survive the stain of Palestinian Authority corruption.