Last week in a speech to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Salaam Fayyad, pointedly avoided answering a direct question from ZOA National President Morton A. Klein as to why the supposedly moderate and peace-loving PA had issued a poster in honor of the 43rd anniversary of the ruling Fatah party depicting Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza draped in a Palestinian kaffiyah [Arab headdress] with a picture of a Kalashnikov automatic rifle and Yasser Arafat and honored deceased terrorist leader, George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) by declaring three days of mourning in the PA territories, flying PA flags at half mast and publicly praising him as a great Palestinian hero.
Klein, who was in Israel to address the Jerusalem Conference at the citys Hyatt Regency Hotel and participate in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPOMAJO) at the David Citadel Hotel and open a new ZOA office in Jerusalem, asked the following question of Fayyad, following the latters address to the CPOMAJO in which he strongly condemned the so-called Israeli occupation, the roadblocks and Israeli sealing of the border with Gaza:
Mr. Fayyad, you are widely and consistently reported to be moderate who promotes peace. Yet, in the last few weeks, your PA administration has taken several actions which strongly contradict that moderate, pro-peace label. Firstly, your administration, of which you are prime minister, issued a new poster of your ruling Fatah party, commemorating the 43rd anniversary of Fatah, showing a map of Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza fully covered with a checkered kaffiyeh with no mention of Israel; adjacent to this map is large picture of a Kalashnikov rifle and an outsized, circled picture of Yasser Arafat.
Secondly, after the notorious terrorist leader George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), died last week in Syria, your administration publicly honored and glorified him by declaring a three day period of mourning, flying PA flags at half mast and publicly praising him as a great historic figure and hero to the Palestinian people whose death is a great loss to the Palestinian cause. George Habashs group murdered hundreds of Jews and Americans and perpetrated numerous suicide bombings and airplane hijackings. They were also involved in the Munich massacre and murdered an Israeli cabinet minister, Rechavam Zeevi. Your office in Washington also issued strong statements of praise for George Habash and even opened a condolence book for members of Congress to sign, something the late Congressman and Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee Tom Lantos publicly condemned.
Mr. Fayyad, how are we to understand these actions in light of your reputation as a moderate peacemaker?
Kleins question was one of three questions Fayyad was asked to answer together. He answered the other two and ignored Kleins. Klein then stood up and respectfully asked if he could answer the question about the Fatah poster and George Habash. After a pause, Fayyad began a long, rambling, evasive, non-specific response about the Palestinians long history in which many things have happened, and that at times we do things inconsistent with our goals. He never mentioned the poster or Habash, never apologized and never expressed any regret for them.
Klein said, It was painful indeed to experience this episode with prime minister Salaam Fayyad. It simply reinforces the fear that the PA leadership is not moderate or peaceful, but simply Yasser Arafats in suits and ties. This realization is given even more credence by the fact that Mahmoud Abbas himself has declared that It is our duty to implement the principles of Yasser Arafat (Haaretz, January 3, 2005); that We will continue in the path of the late president until we fulfill all his dreams (Agence France-Presse, November 11, 2005); and that The Palestinian leadership wont stray from Arafats path (Yediot Ahronot, November 11, 2006).