Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' stated positions on the core issues framing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are completely contradictory when addressing an Israeli or Western audience versus the Palestinian people and the Arab world. A Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) report outlines the contrasting positions concerning refugees, Jerusalem, and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
For example, Abbas offers two completely different positions over the rights of Palestinian refugees. He told Israelis visiting Ramallah that he did not wish to flood Israel with Palestinian refugees and their decedents.
"We only put the issue of the refugees on the negotiating table because it is a sensitive matter that must be resolved in order to end the conflict, and so that the refugees are pleased with the peace agreement. In any case, we do not wish to flood Israel with millions and change its demographic makeup. That is nonsense and what was written in the Israeli press is untrue," Abbas said.
Yet, when Abbas spoke to a Palestinian audience, he said "the right of return is a personal right. No country, authority, organization or even Abu Mazen or [other] leaders can deny anyone of his right."
In separate remarks to students in Ramallah, Abbas said, "If you want to return to Israel and receive an Israeli citizenship or not – you are free [to decide]." In this context, Abbas is clearly advocating for a Palestinian right of return to pre-1967 Israel, should the individual refugee and his/her descendants decide to do so.
Addressing an Israeli audience, Abbas stressed that Jerusalem would not be divided in any future peace agreement, but would have two municipalities with an appropriate coordinating body.
To Palestinians, he promised that, "Occupied Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine, since without it there will be no solution. No one is authorized to sign [such an agreement]. He added: "Without East Jerusalem as Palestine's capital there will be no peace between us and Israel. I heard that they object to mentioning Jerusalem in any negotiations or talks."
Abbas told his Israeli audience that the PA would accept a United Nations decision that Israel is a Jewish state. To Palestinians, he vowed that the PA "not recognize [Israel as a Jewish state], we will reject this and it is our right to not recognize the Judaism of the state."
MEMRI's analysis comes on the heels of Abbas' decision to seek statehood benefits from 15 international bodies despite promising not to make such a move during ongoing peace talks. Those talks now face collapse.
MEMRI's report shows the folly of accepting Abbas' talk of peace and reconciliation when it is directed at Israeli and Western audiences. Read the whole report here.