Abbas and the path to peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has embarked on a destructive course harmful to the prospects for rebuilding Gaza and achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace.  Three weeks ago at the United Nations, Abbas slandered Israel and undermined the true interests of the Palestinian people.  If Abbas wants peace and an independent, viable Palestinian state—and if he wants American support in the future—he must reverse course and return to direct negotiations with Israel. 

Last month, I authored a letter with Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyPro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Midterms: The winners and losers Senate GOP beats expectations with expanded majority MORE (D-Pa.) to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryFormer Pentagon chief: Trump 'let down our country' by skipping WWI cemetery visit due to rain Tensions shadow Trump's France visit Kerry to Fox News host: Veterans fought so you could be a 'complete fool on Twitter' MORE, which was signed by 88 senators, laying out three key objectives that should guide U.S. policy going forward with respect to Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.  These objectives included preventing Hamas—a designated foreign terrorist organization—from rebuilding its military capabilities, enabling efforts to allow the Palestinian Authority to move toward becoming the Palestinian governing authority in Gaza, and preventing Palestinian actions at the UN and International Criminal Court that would derail prospects for the resumption of peace talks.

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There is no doubt that the recent conflict in Gaza exacted a tragic toll on both the Israeli and Palestinian people, and we mourn with the families of the innocent civilians killed in Israel and Gaza, as well as the families of Israeli service members who died defending their country.

However, the many Palestinian deaths resulting from Hamas’s terrorist aggression against Israel do not justify some of Abbas’ statements in his UN General Assembly speech.  Disappointingly, President Abbas trotted out the vicious lie that Israel committed genocide against the Palestinian people during the conflict.  This charge is inflammatory and false—and it is particularly deplorable when leveled against those who understand the true meaning of genocide.

President Abbas either doesn’t understand or chooses to ignore an important fact:  in the recent conflict in Gaza, one side diligently attempted to protect civilians while the other side deliberately tried to murder them.  Israel undertook extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas cynically used fellow Palestinians as human shields and launched thousands of rockets in a deliberate effort to kill Israeli civilians. 

All those who support a state’s right to self-defense and who oppose terrorism must condemn efforts to blur the clear moral distinction between a nation-state protecting its citizens and a terrorist organization trying to murder them.  There is no moral equivalence between the two.  If President Abbas and some at the UN ignore that fact, they will do a great disservice to their credibility and ultimately their effectiveness. 

In addition, Abbas violated his agreements with Israel and the United States by vowing to turn away from American-led peacemaking efforts and concentrate his attention on efforts to get the UN Security Council to impose a solution on Israel.  

Abbas should understand that such an approach will not work, but instead will result in a loss of American support and will postpone the day when the Palestinian people can enjoy an independent and viable Palestinian state at peace with a secure state of Israel.

President Abbas has a choice.  He can return to the direct negotiations with Israel that represent the only path for him to a Palestinian state, or he can continue his misguided and destructive initiatives at the UN and elsewhere.  His choice will not only determine his success or failure as a Palestinian leader, but more importantly, his decision will impact the well-being of Israelis and Palestinians for years to come. 

Ayotte is New Hampshire's junior senator, serving since 2011. She sits on the Armed Services; the Budget; the Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees.