Does Abbas really want peace?

Forget the thorny challenges of border-drawing, land-swaps, and water-sharing. Put aside the future of Jerusalem.

As Israelis—in the name of peace—are forced yet again to walk the gangplank by releasing terrorists who blew up their wives and children, there is scant evidence that Palestinians have made their peace with the idea of a Jewish state as their legitimate neighbor.

Consider these developments:

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Even as he demands the right of return of four million Palestinians to Israel proper, President Abbas pledges that the future Palestinian state will cleanse its territory of all Jews. At his last UN General Assembly speech, Abbas—while speaking of Jesus and Mohammed—remembered to forget any reference to the 3,500-year relationship of the Jewish people to the Holy Land. Palestinain Authority representatives deny Solomon’s Temple ever existed. They are busy rebranding Jewish holy sites, like Rachel’s Tomb, as a mosque, and recently Arabs stole Mezuzot from Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs—a site venerated and used by both Jews and Muslims.

While much of the international community already treats Abbas a head of state, his core constituency is shrinking. Denouncing the PA's corruption, Sheik Jabbari, a key elder of one of Hebron’s six ruling clans, recently charged that the PA represents no more than 5 percent of West Bank residents. Meanwhile, all Palestinian factions of his own PLO, except Fatah, are refusing to take part in a committee to oversee negotiations with Israel. Two senior PA spokesmen have declared that Abbas won't sign a final peace treaty-- only a Hudna-- a temporary truce. And Abbas cannot even set foot in the Palestinians' largest community—Gaza—for fear of assassination by Hamas.

Speaking of  Hamas—which tightly controls Gaza, the territory from which Israel withdrew unilaterally in 2005—it threatens any Palestinian who dares negotiate peace with the Jewish state with a death sentence, and defiantly fired new rockets into southern Israel in response to the opening round of talks in Washington. What then is Secretary Kerry’s endgame: Is Israel expected to accept a three-state solution?

Hamas’ inspiration, the Muslim Brotherhood, has again called the Holocaust “the greatest lie of the modern age and the gravest incident of organized historical international blackmail.” It may be out of power in Egypt, but it continues to foment attacks from Sinai, and is still the most dangerous anti-Semitic organization in the world.

Many Palestinian activists around the world oppose peace talks. Hundreds of prominent Palestinian individuals and NGOs from all over North America published a new Rejectionist Ultimatum aligning themselves with the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel. Their purpose: not to create a Palestinian state but to destroy the Jewish one. There may be talk of peace in the air, but there is only hateful rhetoric on the ground. Addressing an annual al-Quds Day rally in Toronto, Elias Hazineh, the former president of Palestine House issued an ultimatum to Israelis: “You have to leave Jerusalem. You have to leave Palestine. We say get out or you’re dead! We give them two minutes and then we start shooting.” And on the same day, Germans heard calls from Muslims on the streets of Berlin for the destruction of the Jewish state.

All this as Israelis see their surrounding neighborhood imploding. Coup or not, no one knows what kind of Egypt will emerge from the current crisis. Bloodied Syria looks increasingly like a choice between two devils: Assad or Al Qaeda. Will Lebanon self-destruct or cave to Hezbollah? Can Jordan manage the crush of refugees from Syria? And then there is Iran. A kinder, gentler President Rouhani calls Israel “a wound” on the Muslim world, while intelligence reports confirm Iran’s pursuit of a second track, plutonium strategy for acquiring nuclear weapons.

Against this backdrop and with the Arab oil kingdoms currently uninterested in bankrolling the Palestinians, shouldn't Abbas and Company be incentivized by the U.S. promise of a $4 billion package to negotiate in good faith?

Not necessarily.

The Palestinian Authority, despite billions in aid over the years, does not appear ready to run a state for whose success or failure it would be held accountable. Better to drag out the process and drama of negotiations by which—for merely for showing up—they succeed in forcing more unilateral concessions from Israel. Why sweat the details when there are broad hints from Washington and the EU that nine months down the road Israel will be forced to capitulate even without a mutual agreement?

A month from now, Mr. Abbas will once again address the UN General Assembly. He will doubtless denounce a “Judaized Jerusalem” and “illegal Settlements” as the main obstacles to peace. But the truth is that the real stumbling block is the failure of President Abbas to tell his people in Arabic, once and for all, that the Jewish state of Israel is here to stay. Instead he retains the map and hope of a Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, while his PA continues to present terrorists as role models for their youth.
Unless and until such a mindset is deconstructed, all the American and European arm-twisting of Israel alone won’t bring peace to either people, only hasten more needless violence and suffering in a region already on the brink of a total meltdown.

Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Brackman, a historian, is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.