For decades, Arab and Islamic leaders and governments have been inciting their people against Israel. That is the main reason why these governments and leaders would never be able to persuade their people to make peace with Israel.
In this regard, the Palestinian Authority has not been different from the Arab and Islamic dictatorships.
For the past 15 years, the Palestinian Authority has been involved in the dissemination of anti-Israel messages through the rhetoric of its leaders and spokesman, media and mosques.
Yasser Arafat unleashed a wave of incitement against Israel in the Palestinian-controlled media. His message to the Palestinians, immediately after the beginning of the peace process began in 1993, was that Israel was not serious about peace and only wanted to continue “stealing Arab land.”
Arafat also kept promising that if the Palestinians don’t get 100% of their demands, they would not hesitate to resort to an armed struggle. He pledged “millions of martyrs” who would march on Jerusalem to liberate the city.
Moreover, Arafat told the Palestinians that no Arab or Muslim leader had the right to make real concessions to Israel, especially not on issues related to Jerusalem and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.
Perhaps that explains why Arafat was unable to sign any deal at the Camp David summit in 2000. After all, he himself had been telling the Palestinians that anyone who makes concessions to Israel is a “traitor.” Through his media and rhetoric, Arafat delegitimized and demonized Israel to a point where he was unable later on to make a deal with the Israeli government.
Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, also needs to watch out what kind of message he’s sending to his people. If he’s allowing his TV and radio stations to incite against Israel, he will find it extremely difficult to sell any peace agreement to a majority of his people. No Palestinian would trust Israel if his or her leaders are announcing every day that the Israelis don’t want peace and that their only goal is to seize as much land as possible.
Now that Abbas and his negotiators are heading to Washington to launch direct talks with Israel at the invitation of the US Administration, the message in the Palestinian media does not appear to have changed significantly. In addition, statements made by senior Palestinian officials continue to contain anti-Israel messages that make Palestinians skeptical about Israel’s true intentions.
Abbas is making the same mistake that his predecessor, Arafat, made in the years that preceded the botched Camp David summit hosted by former President Bill Clinton. The anti-Israel tone undermines the same goals that Abbas is seeking to achieve. What will the Palestinians think of him when they see him sitting and talking with the same Israeli leaders who he says do not want peace?
In order for the peace talks to make progress, there is a need to prepare the Palestinian public opinion for the possibility of compromise and concessions with Israel. But the Palestinian leadership’s message these days sounds more apologetic than conciliatory. The message is mostly aimed at justifying Abbas’s decision to negotiate with Israel unconditionally. It also sounds as if the Palestinian Authority is telling its people that it decided to go to the talks only due to heavy pressure from the Americans and Europeans.
With such messages, it is almost certain that the direct talks will lead nowhere.