Fighting the Carmel blaze.
Fighting the Carmel blaze. Israel news photo: Flash 90

A slim majority of Arabs polled by a leading Palestinian Authority news agency said it was “disgraceful” for the PA to send firefighters to help Israel battle the blaze in the Carmel forest last week that claimed 43 lives.

Nearly 50,000 readers responded to a poll by the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency, and slightly more than 50 percent were negative to the assistance requested by Israel from  PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who won international headlines for helping Israel. Slightly less than half of the respondents said that dispatching the Arab firefighters was a humanitarian duty.

Abbas praised the Arab firefighters but took the opportunity to hint that Israel is the enemy, comparing the assistance with that of Saladin, the 12th century Sultan of Egypt and Syria who Abbas said “sent his personal physician to treat his enemy, England's King Richard, who headed the Crusade to conquer our land," meaning Israel.

A growing gap between the Arab “street” and international praise for Abbas and the Palestinian Authority regime has become more evident in the past year. Abbas continues to serve as chairman although his term of office expired more than a year ago and no elections have been held since.

An editorial on Saturday in the London-based Palestine Times accused Abbas of lying to Arabs by claiming to follow the path of his predecessor, the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

“He [Abbas]…claimed that he did not and would not make concessions to Israel that Arafat did not make or would not have made. But that is not true. Under Abbas's leadership, it is clear that the PA has voiced a willingness to scrap, nearly entirely, the right of return for the vast majority of the 5 or 6 million Palestinian refugees….

“For those who forgot or do not know, the infamous Camp David talks which took place under the sponsorship of President [Bill] Clinton, collapsed because Arafat refused to give up the right of return and Jerusalem.

“On the seventh day of the talks, Arafat reportedly told Clinton, ‘I cannot go back to my people without Al-Quds Al-Shari [Jerusalem]’ ... On the eighth day, Arafat said to Clinton, ‘I will invite you to my funeral if you insist on your demands for Jerusalem.’ Arafat also refused adamantly to scrap the right of return, insisting on invoking UN resolution 149.”