Mahmud Abbas, Präsident des Staates Palästina, Deutschland, Berlin, Bundeskanzleramt, Empfang des Präsidenten der Palästinensischen Autonomiebehörde, Abbas durch BK Scholz *** Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, Germany, Berlin, Federal Chancellery, Reception of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas by BK Scholz

The downplaying of the Holocaust in the Federal Chancellery is not the first time that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has attracted attention with comments on the Holocaust. In his doctoral thesis, written at a Russian university in the early 1980s, he wrote that Zionist groups supported the Nazis in the Holocaust in order to persuade the remaining Jews to flee to Palestine. In a 2018 speech, he claimed that the Nazis did not commit their genocide against the Jews because of “their religious identity,” but because of their social activities, including “usury and banking.” The claim that Jews are greedy and dominate the financial world is one of the classic anti-Semitic motifs. After sharp international reactions, Abbas apologized. However, his recent appearance in Berlin does not indicate that he has learned from the past scandal.

Abbas, 87, has served as President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank since 2005. He repeatedly had planned presidential elections, which were supposed to take place every four years, postponed, most recently a year ago. Elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, the parliament of the Palestinian territories, have also not taken place since 2006. Critics accuse Abbas of holding office contrary to democratic principles and of having established an inefficient system of government based on corruption. In fact, Abbas would hardly have a chance of asserting himself in free elections – a recent survey also underlined this.

Israeli commentators also accuse Abbas of inciting the Palestinian population against Israel, or at least of condoning such incitement. To this day, the PA continues to pay so-called martyr’s pensions to the families of Palestinian assassins who killed Israelis and died in the process. In addition, Abbas lacks the political weight and presumably also the will to make painful compromises in favor of a two-state solution – if there was a government on the Israeli side that showed a serious interest in this.

Still, many Israeli observers are concerned about the future after Abbas. Despite some rhetorical failures, he is considered a moderate; his potential successors, who are already positioning themselves, could become more uncomfortable for Israel. During his tenure, Abbas largely maintained stability in the West Bank and always – not without self-interest – kept alive the cooperation with Israeli security forces, which thus enjoy extensive freedom of action in the West Bank and can, for example, take action against Hamas, the rival of Abbas’ Fatah party. Instead of preaching armed resistance to Israeli occupation, he has taken the fight for the Palestinian cause into international forums. “Abbas is good for the Jews,” wrote the Israeli Middle East expert Ronni Shaked a few years ago. “Israel will miss Mahmoud Abbas.”