Israeli officials, analysts question Abbas’s mental faculties after Ramallah speech

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Picture by Ehud Amiton/TPS

JERUSALEM—Palestinian officials walked back Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ comments last night in Ramallah “blessing” US President Donald Trump for God to “destroy your house,” but Israeli officials and commentators said Abbas’ speech at the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) conference in Ramallah had the feel of a farewell address by a leader who appears to have lost touch with reality.
In the speech Abbas publicly rejected United States  President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and called the state of Israel a Western conspiracy.

Ziad Abu Ziad, a former Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, said uproar in the Israeli press over Abbas’ comments “is a perfect example” of Israel’s failure to understand Palestinian society, saying the Arabic phrase yechrab beitek  is a “throw away phrase” that is comparable to the Hebrew-language slang “sababa,” which roughly translated as “okay, cool.”

Israeli observers took a different view, with several people calling into question the 82-year-old leader’s mental state.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin  declared during a meeting with a delegation of AIPAC leaders from the United States.: ‘What we heard yesterday from Mahmoud Abbas was terrible. He returned back to the ideas he expressed decades ago, when they were no less terrible.”

“To say Israel is the result of a Western conspiracy to settle Jews in land belonging to Arab populations? To say that the Jewish people have no connection to the Land of Israel? He’s forgotten many things, and said exactly the things that led him to be accused years ago of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial” Rivlin said.

“These are precisely the things that block us,” Rivlin continued. “In his words he is rejecting our return to our homeland, even though Abu Mazen knows very well that the Quran itself recognizes the Land of Israel as our land. Without this basic recognition we will not be able to build trust and move forward.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman criticized Abbas as a “childish” man who both bites the proverbial hand that feeds him and has lost touch with reality.

“Abu Mazen enjoys the financial support of the president of the United States, so I really wonder about his conduct,” Lieberman said. “He does not understand that he’s got no alternative to the US – not only for him and for Israel, but for the entire moderate world. That’s why he wants to create a confrontation with Israel on a political level.

“The real question here is – is he really a partner? Is it really possible to maintain with him some kind of relationship that will enable some coexistence in Judea and Samaria between Jews and Arabs? I think that any bilateral solution between us and the Palestinians is simply an illusion … There is no such thing as ‘our ‘conflict; it is not with the Palestinians, but with the entire Arab world. So when we talk about a solution, once we finish with the Palestinians, we will start a fight with Ayman Odeh, and another Knesset member I saw who said he would rather die than sing Hatikva,” Lieberman added.

Shimrit Meir, the CEO of LINK- the center for strategic communication in the Middle East and the founding editor of a Al-Masdar, an Israeli news website in Arabic, told the Israel Broadcast Corporation (Kan) that watching Abu Mazen’s address called into question the Palestinian leader’s mental faculties.

“People came to the conference [called by Abu Mazen to discuss Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel]as well as the future of Israel-Palestinian relations at a time that it appears that the Oslo process has come to a dead end. They wanted to hear plans, policy, but all Abu Mazen had to give them was a history lesson, about the Balfour Declaration, Zionism, and more.

“I don’t think Abu Mazen understands the depth of  the changes in the United States, in Saudi Arabia. And he took a very aggressive tone against the Europeans [who he accused of  bringing the Jews to Israel to preserve European colonial interests]. Just about the only support he’s got left is from the European Union. One is left with the feeling that he is losing his mental faculties,” Shimrit said.

EJP contributed to this article.