US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman came under fire for, suposedly, endorsing Netanyahu's electoral promise of annexing West Bank lands. After the inital salvos for and against, as the smoke starts settling down, some interesting issues are becoming clear:
a) David Friedman never endorsed the idea of Annexation
b) With new elections coming up in Israel, talk of annexation can complicate Netanyahu's life quite a bit
c) Some pundits trying to defend Friedman started splitting hairs between "Israel has the right to retain some of the territories" and "Israel has the right to annex some of the territories", making the semantics the focus of the discussion.
IN my opinion, the bottom line is that the whole thing is nonsense. Friedman has been the target of attacks before, mostly because he was, before becoming Ambassador, a financial supporter of the Settlements' Movement. It does not follow, however, that as an Ambassador he promotes annexation - as some in the Palestinian street and in the extreme left Israeli political parties would like the world to believe.
So what is behind all these attacks?
Mahmoud Abbas is 84 years old, and while his hold on Palestinian society was never as strong as Arafat's, whatever support he migth have among the Palestinian rank-and-file is eroding. His ongoing confrontation with Hamas, the constant accusations of corruption, his failure to develop a healthy Palestinian economy and the abundant evidence of cronism in his regime do not make him a very popular figure.
When President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, Abbas reaction was a political temper tantrum refusing to talk with the US - the strongest country in today's world and arguably the main player in the Israeli Palestinian ongoing chase of the so elusive Peace. For all intent and purposes he muzzled himself.
And yet, unable to acknowledge responsibility for his own actions, he attempted to redefine the tension with the US as a way to try to rally his own troops in his support. Consider that Abbas was elected President of the Palestinian Authority for a four year term... 14 years ago!
When the upcoming Economic meeting in Bahrain dealing with the economic aspects of an Israeli Palestinian conflict resolution was announced, some Arab countries who might be also distrustful of the Trump Administration, such as Egypt and Jordan, announced their partiicpation on the basis that "they need to be part of the conversation". Yet Mahmoud Abbas, who has the most to win and the most to lose, not only refused to participate but proclaim that any Palestinian who partiicpates in that meeting will be considered a traitor to the Palestinian people - a label that in Palestinian society has normally attached a death sentence.
As part of his Campaign to demonize everything American, Abbas often attacks Friedman and/or Kushner. The latest manipulation of Friedman's comments to make them look as saying something other than what he said, are simply another chapter in the same book. In a Palestinian society in which access to alteranbtive sources of news not controlled by the government is difficult, the Palestinian Authority interpreptation of events becames more often than not the normative interpretation. And if a Journalist dares to openly question the party line... he, too, is labeled a traitor.
We can agree or disagree with Abbas, Friedman, Kushner, Netanyahu or Trump; but Palestinians are free to disagree only with Friedman, Kushner, Netanyahu and Trump. In fact, they are strongly encouraged to do so... or be considered Traitors.
Palestinians overuse that term (Traitor) and have weaponized it as a tool for social control. When Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football (Soccer) Association described Soccer as a bridge between people, he made a point of clarifying that that did not apply to Israel, and that anybody attempting a compete in Sports with Israelis would be considered a traitor...
We can disagree on amny aspects of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the role played by the US in its resolution, but one thing I believe we will all agree is that Palestinians are living under an asfixiating regime which doesn't care about the common people... and I don't mean the so-called "occupation", but their own leaders. This is not new... The Hajj Amin Al Husseini (Grand Mufti of Jerusalem), Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas leadership have one thing in common: Their goal is not the freedom of their people as much as it is the destruction of the "Zionist Entity". And the Palestinian people is paying the price...
As for Ambassador David Friedman, let me remind everybody of the words of the Egyptian poet Khalil Gibran... "When the words leave your mouth, they are not your words anymore"