The editor of Haaretz, Aluf Benn, wants annexation. This conclusion is just as true as his conclusion that “Abbas wants annexation,” as he wrote in an opinion piece last week. Benn is an astute and original political commentator, and it may be that he knows what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants now; it certainly isn’t annexation.
But the truth is, it no longer matters. Late in life, his people at their lowest ebb since the disaster of 1948, after the Palestinians have tried everything, no fair alternative for them is left on the bargaining table.
It’s much easier to know what Abbas wanted his entire life: a Palestinian state like all other states, within the pre-1967 borders. That’s the almost embarrassing minimum for those whose land this was until recently. A state with borders as open as it wants, with an independent immigration policy and an open arms-acquisition policy (Abbas gave in on this point) – only this could be called a state like all others.
This was never on the table, simply because no Israeli prime minister has been willing. This being the case, Benn’s arguments collapse like a house of cards, the house of cards that many fine Israelis want to imagine to soothe their consciences, as if to say “we had no part in this.” Benn’s op-ed is a classic example of Israeli repression and denial, of blaming the other side and of the absolute avoidance of taking any responsibility or admitting that we share the guilt. The Palestinians are to blame.
There is no historical precedent for this kind of complete insanity: The occupier, the expeller, the tyrant, the dispossessor is blameless; the conquered is to blame for his fate. The only issue at stake is the security, the strength, of the strong, armed, privileged and well-connected party; its helpless victim deserves nothing.
Occasionally a few crumbs are tossed and Benn, and all Israelis, accuse the Palestinians once again. Loving to quote that baseless witticism of Abba Eban, they say the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. That’s such an absurd description of the situation that it’s hard to know where to start.
According to Benn’s theory, one text message from Abbas to Donald Trump, who’s known for his concern for the Palestinians and the weak in general, and there’s no annexation. Not only hocus but pocus. One text message from Abbas to the U.S. negotiating team, which is 100-percent Jewish, Zionist, right-wing, pro-occupation and pro-settlements, and the weakest, most broken-down politician on the planet today will sway the White House.
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The fact that Abbas hasn’t done this – he has 26 days left, Benn wrote, and three more have since passed – proves that Abbas wants annexation. If only he showed a willingness to return to negotiations. If only he understood that even the little that remains is about to evaporate.
That being the case, he must bow his head and accept the situation. Benn’s advice: Take sovereignty over the dump in Abu Dis, because even that promising opportunity is about to disappear. There is value, Benn writes, in renewing the peace talks: It would accentuate the differences between Likud and Kahol Lavan.
That’s truly a critical consideration for the Palestinians; why didn’t they think of it? It’s reason enough for Abbas to rush into meetings with Jared Kushner, Daniel Friedman and Avi Berkowitz, and maybe Gabi Ashkenazi as well, another warrior for justice.
It doesn’t matter anymore what Abbas wants. He doesn’t stand a chance. If there’s one thing he’ll be remembered for as a statesman, it’s his courageous refusal to take part in the annexation orgy of the American peacemakers. It’s not a matter of honor, as Benn claims, but of survival.
There’s the moment when the sick, starving horse, which was abused in every possible way, collapses and dies. Benn blames it for its death. The Palestinians are nearing this moment. Benn calls on them to send a text message. He forgets that it has been a long time since they’ve been part of any group chat that affects their fate, that no one reads their messages and they may no longer be able to send them. But it’s their fault. Everything is their fault.