Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas goes to Washington and attends a private dinner with the Zionist lobby. Notice anything wrong with this? The exact group who spend every waking hour extinguishing the prospects of Palestinian self-determination now want to dine with the puppet leader.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can’t seem to unify the political factions within his own community, but there is one disparate group that he does have the ability to bring together: the American Jewish community.
Representatives from all sides of the pro-Israel NGO world all came together to meet with Abbas at a private dinner at the Newseum last night. The groups put aside their differences over Israeli tactics, U.S. pressure, treatment of Gazans, and treatment of the Israeli human rights community to show a united front to the Palestinian leader and get him to answer the questions on their mind.
Leaders of more hawkish groups like AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents, Mort Zuckerman, Elliott Abrams, and Dov Zakheim broke bread with the more dovish likes of J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and Hillel.
The Cable spoke got the readout from multiple participants. Here’s how it went:
Host Robert Wexler, president of the S. Danial Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and rumored next ambassador to Israel, opened with some short remarks. Abbas made a quick speech, and the rest of the two-and-a-half-hour session was all questions and answers.
Three topics dominated the questioning: how and when to move to direct talks, Palestinian “incitement” and how far Abbas would be willing to show both sides he was serious about peace, and to a lesser degree, what to do about Hamas.
The Gaza flotilla incident was not discussed. Nobody, including Abbas, brought it up.
Most participants we spoke with said Abbas gave mostly constructive answers, went further on explanations that he ever has before, and sometime gave as good as he got.
“I’ve never seen him as impressive,” said one conservative participant. “You have to give the guy credit. He handled himself well in a den of lions.”