Abbas sees Sisi as a kindred spirit, but that does not mean that Sisi will fulfill his requests.
By Dr. Mordechai Kedar -Arutz Sheva
Rabbi Eliezer is quoted in the Talmudic Tractate Bava Kama (82:b) as saying: “It is not surprising that the starling chose to visit the raven, because they are of the same species,” a reference to the fact that people of similar ilk are attracted to one another because their interests are similar as well.
Mahmoud Abbas has visited Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at least ten times since he became president of Egypt,
the most recent visit at the beginning of this past week. According to Egyptian and Palestinian media,
these visits centered on two things: 1.Mahmoud Abbas’ desire to call an international conference that
will decide to force Israel to establish another Palestinian state, this one in Judea and Samaria and
governed by the PLO – and 2. Abbas’ attempt to enlist Egypt’s help in ending the feud with Hamas that
has caused a split within the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.
Except that the real story is behind the scenes.The idea of an international conference to give the peace
wagon a shove forward changes its face constantly ever since the Madrid Conference of October 1991
and its unimpressive results caused the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to seek out
other routes. Oslo, the capital of Norway, was one of them, and there have been others since then, some
secret and others public, all attempts to reach an agreement between the two sides.
An international conference is a friendly environment for whoever wants to pressure Israel because of the
automatic majority the Arab side has at any forum of this type. The proximity of other heads of state
gives every Israeli leader the feeling that he is under pressure and pushes him into a defensive position
which convinces him that he must offer some form of payment to the Palestinians in the form of
territorial, political and/or economic concessions.
An international conference allows the Palestinian spokesmen to set a high standard of expectations –
from Israel – and to hint that if their appetite is not assuaged they will tell the world that Israel is “guilty
for the lack of a peace treaty with her neighbors.”
A well known principle of international conferences says that an international conference is held only
after the nations that initiated it have already decided on their decisions and that the entire conference,
with its meetings, documents,speeches, cocktail parties and participants are all props that are there to
convince those who get their information from the media that something important has actually
happened at the conference.
This is just what Abbas wants fromSisi, help in organizing an international conference to which the
Palestinians will come after they are convinced that the documents exhibited there have given them
everything Israel does not want to give them in direct negotiations. Abbas wants to take advantage of
the growing intimacy between Israel and Egypt, a result of the joint struggle of both countries against
the increasing terror in the Sinai. For Sisi to take the part of the one responsible for the “negotiations,”
that is the forcing of a solution on Israel under the threat that if Israel does not give in to his dictates –
Abbas’, that is – it will endanger the cooperation between them and the increasing terror in the Sinai will
eventually threaten Israel.
The unsolved question is whether Sisi is really prepared to adopt the idea of calling for an international
conference on the Palestine issue, whether he has the time and patience needed to ensure that the
conference succeeds, when his own backyard – Egypt’s worsening problems – pleads for real solutions.
My gut feeling is that Sisi is not overjoyed about having this conference thrust upon him, because he
hasn’t the time or patience to prepare it properly and also because he does not trust the Palestinians –
and perhaps not the Israelis either – to act properly, cooperate with the participants and carry out the
decisions once the conference is over. Sisi is afraid that this kind of conference will enter the history
books as having had no influence on the situation, just like its predecessors.
Sisi is also not sure that the world will be interested in a conference aimed at progress in achieving
peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because the world today understands that even if a real peace
agreement is signed between Israel and the PLO, it will do nothing to solve the problems in Iraq, Lybia,
Yemen and the rest of the battles and controversies that are tearing the Arab world into shreds. Sisi
knows that the Arab world’s level of interest in the Palestinian problem is close to zero and that explains
why he has no motivation to hold a conference that Abbas sees as the only way to return to the limelight
after the “Arab Spring’ pushed the Palestinian issue offstage.
Sisi knows that the American president’s eagerness to pull his weight to force Israel to give in to the
Palestinian’s expectations has lessened, that Obama has despaired of finding a solution, sensing that
neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have enough people who are really interested in solving the
conflict. Sisi knows that the American president – if he only wanted to – could play a constructive role at
a conference of this nature, but he does not see any great desire on Obama’s part to do that, mainly due
to Obama’s fear of another failure for his party on the way to the November elections. In conclusion, the
probability that Abbas’ efforts to enlist Sisi to his cause will succeed is not high.
The second issue that brought Abbas to Egypt, healing the rift between the PLO and Hamas, is no less
important than the first in Abbas’ eyes. He – the Palestinian chairman – sees that Hamas is already
planning the celebrations of the ninth anniversary of the establishment of its state in Gaza, while his
chances of establishing a similar state in Judea and aSmaria under PLO rule are fading by the day. His
efforts to enlist Egypt are the last possibility to heal the rift in the Palestinian political system, a rift that
proves that there is no unified agenda to which all those who claim the existence of a Palestinian nation
The rift betwen the PLO and Hamas is just an organizational expression of the significant cultural
differences between the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, who have familial and cultural ties with the
Jordanian population and the Gazan Arabs who are blood relatives of the Bedouins dwelling in the SInai
and the Israeli Negev. Even the Arabic spoken in Gaza is different than that spoken by the Arabs of Judea
Hamas’ control of Gaza is not threatened in any way; even Egypt and Israel, who hold the keys to the
gates leading from Gaza to the rest of the world have not gotten Gaza to accede to their demands and
interests. Actually, Sisi has no realistic way to force anything on Hamas. Even more, Sisi worries that if
he tries to pressure Hamas in Gaza, they will only increase the aid they are already giving the Jihadists in
theSinai and export the terror to Egypt on a higher scale.
That’s why Abbas is probably going to have to accept another disappointment. It is hard to imagine Sisi
endangering Egypt by pressuring Hamas, just to convince that terrorist organization’s members to
accept the leadership of the President of the “Muqata in Ramallah,” their derisive title for him.
In sum, there is every reason to expect that Mahmoud Abbas’ recent visit to Egypt will not yield the fruits
he expects and that his wanderings around the world are the personification of the Arab proverb: “any
movement is blessed” – it doesn’t matter what you achieve, nor does it matter what you do, the main
thing is that you are in motion, raising dust and creating the impression that you are accomplishing
something. Abbas is a master at creating illusions and that is what he is doing nstead of trying the one
thing that could bring results, sitting down with Netanyahu until they hammer out a solution.
This is how his foreign policy is carried out, but everyone must remember the fact that he, that very
same Mahmoud Abbas, is the man who was in charge of funding the PLO terrorists during the days when
he was Arafat’s deputy and right hand man.
This week Israel remembers its fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims. Mahmoud Abbas is responsible for
the deaths of not a few of them. May their memories be blessed.
Translated by Rochel Sylvetsky, Oped and Judaism editor, Arutz Sheva English site.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University.
He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.