Hamas and Abbas, Selectively Urging Violence Against Jews

Palestinian protesters use slings to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah October 20. A three-week-old uprising by knife-wielding, Internet-generation teenagers against Israelis has left 80-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looking like yesterday's man, unable either to oppose the violence or openly endorse it. Ammar Awad/Reuters

This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was quick to denounce the violence and arson at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. Moreover, he has instructed Palestinian Authority (PA) police to prevent a new intifada.

But this is the same Abbas who has encouraged violence. He continues to spread the lie that Israel is undermining the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount, and said, "Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet."

He has verbally supported violence, reacting to the series of stabbings this way: "Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it's for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah's will."

In Gaza, Hamas tries to prevent Islamic Jihad and other groups from launching attacks into Israel, and restrains its own cadres. But Hamas has glorified the stabbings and killings of recent days and urged its followers to go out and kill Jews.

Why the apparent contradictions?

Simple: both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are saying "NIMBY," or "Not In my Backyard." The PA wants calm where it rules, in the West Bank, and fears that a new intifada could help Hamas. But it sees violence in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, as potentially helpful politically–and is certainly not going to condemn it.

Similarly, Hamas wants more violence everywhere but Gaza, including in the West Bank and Israel, especially Jerusalem. Restraining its young terrorists from action is always a problem for Hamas, as is assigning them to stop Islamic Jihad.

These young thugs did not sign up to police the borders of Gaza on behalf of Israel. So Hamas reminds them of its true terrorist vocation by inspiring and assisting violence elsewhere.

The Israelis have a particularly difficult task in east Jerusalem. They do not permit the PA police into that area, but Israeli police and other public services are sparse there. It is reported that Hamas is stronger there than in the West Bank.

Once this crisis is over, Israel should give careful thought to how it governs east Jerusalem and size of the "normal" police presence there (and from the Israeli press, it's clear that this debate has already begun).

Meanwhile, Hamas and Abbas seek to maintain order where they rule, but promote violence where they do not. NIMBY works in the Middle East, too.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Hamas and Abbas, Selectively Urging Violence Against Jews | Opinion