A Big Thanks to Lieberman

Avi Issacharoff
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Avi Issacharoff

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will certainly never admit it, but he owes a huge thank you to the Israeli government, especially Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Only a few days ago, it seemed Abbas might disappear from the Palestinian and international consciousness due to Hamas' achievements during Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense.

The international, Arab and even Palestinian media talked about nothing but Hamas. Abbas and his plan to appeal to the UN General Assembly went almost unmentioned. But the war in Gaza ended and Israel's rejectionist policy toward the Palestinian request to be upgraded to a UN nonmember state made the issue a very hot item - at least in the media, including Israel's.

Abbas regained his standing - at least in the Palestinian and Arab media - as a hero and leader without fault. He who dares wins, partly thanks to the Israeli PR campaign that portrayed the move as no less than state terror.

And now, thanks to the negative Israeli campaign, Abbas has received broad coverage in the international media - and a rare Palestinian consensus. Even senior Hamas officials, who originally objected to the UN request, have supported Abbas and his courage in not only going against Israel's wishes, but also the U.S. administration's.

In a rally in Ramallah Thursday, senior Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub stood alongside no less than former Hamas Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer. Suddenly the phrase "Palestinian unity" doesn't seem so imaginary.

Lieberman, who led the hysterical campaign against Abbas, came to curse and wound up blessing. But Lieberman should not be underestimated. His crude threats to destroy the Palestinian Authority if it pursued its case at the General Assembly also plays into his hands in internal Israeli politics.

True, the government's retreat and its decision not to respond damages the spirit Lieberman tried to build up, but he can always claim that unlike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who preferred to restrain himself, Lieberman recommended acting with full strength against the PA and for bringing down Abbas. But if we leave aside the cynical political considerations, it's hard to believe that someone in the Foreign Ministry actually thought seriously about bringing down the PA.

This is the same PA whose security services have transformed Lieberman's ride home from the settlement Nokdim into a relatively safe one. It has achieved exceptional quiet compared to the situation in the West Bank over the previous two decades. Israel's security services are a partner to this, but it's hard to find a senior IDF or Shin Bet officer who would claim that the quiet stems purely from Israeli operations without a Palestinian contribution.

But the question for Abbas, and mainly the Palestinian people, is what about tomorrow. It's not clear where Abbas is headed. In the past he said he would agree to restart talks with Israel after he had obtained international recognition regarding the Palestinian state's future borders.

But now his UN representative has made clear that such talks will start only once Israel stops building in the settlements. Abbas' problem is that the Palestinian people don't show the same excitement about the UN move.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly prior to the vote.Credit: AP

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