If Jerusalem's Arabs are facing ethnic cleansing, then Israelis are surely the most incompetent ethnic cleansers in human history. After all, ethnic cleansing usually aims at removing an unwanted population and substituting your own nationals.
But according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies, Jerusalem's Arab population skyrocketed 266 percent between 1967, when Israel annexed east Jerusalem, and 2006 (the last year for which figures are available). That is almost double the Jewish population's growth during those years (143 percent); consequently, the city's ratio of Jews to Arabs shrank from 74:26 in 1967 to 66:34 in 2006.
Even during the intifada, which prompted the fence and the closed institutions that Abbas decries, the Arab population continued ballooning: It rose from 208,700 at the end of 2000 to 252,400 at the end of 2006, an increase of 21 percent in six years, or 3.5 percent a year. Jerusalem's Jewish population grew by only 4.7 percent during those years, or less than 1 percent a year. In absolute terms, the Arab increase (43,700 people) was double the Jewish increase (21,100).
Nor was the Arab growth solely due to natural increase: Ziad al-Hamouri, who heads the Jerusalem Center for Economic Rights, estimates that some 30,000 Arabs have moved to Jerusalem since construction of the fence began; others put the figure even higher.
IF ABBAS is truly unaware of these very well-publicized facts, this casts doubt on his viability as a negotiating partner. Since any deal must be rooted in reality, it is hard to negotiate with someone who remains determinedly ignorant even about "core issues" such as Jerusalem. But more importantly, how can you trust the good faith of someone who has no qualms about accusing you of one of the most heinous crimes in the modern lexicon without even bothering to check his facts? Almost certainly, however, Abbas does know the facts. After all, both Palestinians and Israelis frequently cite east Jerusalem's Arab majority to support Palestinian claims to part of the city.
But in that case, the question becomes even more troubling - because how can you trust the moderation, good faith and peaceful intentions of someone who has no qualms about publicly accusing you of such a heinous crime even knowing that it is false? Bluntly, this was nothing less than deliberate incitement against Israel, in a forum guaranteed to receive maximum coverage in the Arab world.
Nor was this a one-time aberration. Just last month, for instance, Abbas told the Jordanian daily Al Dustour: "At this time, I object to the armed struggle, since we are unable to conduct it; however, in future stages things may change." Yet if his only reason for opposing armed struggle is that he currently believes he cannot wage it successfully, that is hardly reassuring, as this reason would disappear following a peace agreement: With the IDF gone from the West Bank and Jordan border, Palestinians could easily import quantities of sophisticated arms and plan attacks unhindered.
THEN THERE was the PA's rejection in December of a French proposal, backed by senior UN officials, for a UN resolution mandating educational activities to support the peace process. The proposal would have amended an existing resolution that requires teaching about alleged Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, thereby fostering hatred rather than reconciliation. Yet Abbas evidently prefers fostering hatred.
It is hard to imagine anything more innocuous, or more vital to the success of the process, than peace education. If Abbas cannot even agree to that, one has to wonder about his commitment to peace.
There are numerous similar examples, such as his June 2006 charge that Israel was seeking to "eliminate the Palestinian people." Never mind that, by the PA's own figures, the Palestinian population of the territories has quadrupled under Israeli rule - including a 34 percent increase in the past decade alone.
But perhaps even more worrying than Abbas's statements is the world's response. Not a single international leader bothered to condemn last week's ethnic cleansing accusation. Nor did anyone condemn his Al-Dustour remarks, his rejection of the peace education resolution, or any of his other less-than-moderate statements and actions.
Given the world's fixation with resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its reluctance to acknowledge that Abbas may be miscast as a peacemaker is understandable. Yet by tolerating such blatant incitement, the international community further undermines the prospects for peace.
First, such remarks scarcely encourage Israelis to believe that Abbas is acting in good faith, which is an obvious prerequisite for Israeli consent to any agreement. For that reason alone, the world should be interested in condemning such remarks.
Far more important, however, is the message this sends to Palestinians. If Abbas can hurl such vicious and patently false accusations at Israel without even a pro forma protest from world leaders, that tells Palestinians that willingness to live in peace with Israel is not necessary to retain international support. If the world has no objection to even the most vicious Palestinian incitement - despite knowing that such incitement routinely leads to actual violence - then it clearly cares nothing about peace; what it cares about is satisfying Palestinian demands.
That, in turn, encourages Palestinians to believe that eventually, the world will force Israel to accede to these demands even without peace - thereby obviating any need to stop the violence or make the kind of concessions negotiated agreements always entail. And as long as they believe this, peace will remain a distant dream.