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Abbas's Venomous Speech Raises Questions about Future of Judea, Samaria

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Photo, AP archive

JERUSALEM, Israel – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas drew some big lines in the sand during his Sunday speech to the PLO Central Council: no cooperation with President Trump, no role for the United states as a broker in the Middle East, no acceptance of the Trump Middle East peace plan before it has even been announced), no Jewish historical ties to the land of the Bible. He also pronounced the death of the Oslo Accords, the basis for 25 years of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

While global media outlets parse the latest tweets and statements from the Trump White House, many in Israel's government are paying more attention to the words of Abbas. They view the Palestinian leader's speech as the final flailing of a ruler who has governed on borrowed time for years.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett told his Jewish Home Party this week that Abbas "and the idea of a Palestinian state are passing from the world."

Six years ago, Bennett proposed a law that would create Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (a/k/a the West Bank). It was an idea that received little attention – and mostly scorn – at the time. But Abbas's extreme statements, including his reference to Israel as a "colonial project that had nothing to do with Judaism," has left Israelis across the political spectrum wondering how Abbas could possibly have a future as a peace partner.

"The time for [Israeli] sovereignty has arrived," Bennett said, "and it's time to bring this idea from potential to reality. We're in a very unique window on this matter."

Bennett is not prime minister, and many if not most Israelis aren't ready for the internal political wars over annexation. But Abbas's gamble to undercut both Washington and Jerusalem in one speech severely damaged what little remained of his stature to negotiate the future of the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a visit to India this week, remarked that the Abbas speech revealed his true colors and that he actually helped Israel politically with his stilted version of history and anti-Semitic remarks.  

"He exposed what we've been saying all the time, that the root of the conflict is his basic refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders," Netanyahu said.

Meanwhile, Israel's Channel 2 and The Jerusalem Post report Israel's Defense Ministry has begun work on a plan that would legalize 70 unauthorized Jewish outposts in Judea and Samaria. The outposts are usually pre-fab houses placed in areas of the West Bank without government permission.

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