Palestinians are gripped by a new conspiracy theory: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to assassinate their president, Mahmoud Abbas. The theory is being propagated by senior Palestinian officials and media, and one official has threatened to file charges against Kerry at the United Nations’ International Criminal Court.
The charge stems from a comment made by Kerry during a recent meeting with Abbas, during which he was reported to have said that “he would meet the same fate as his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, if he turned down Washington’s proposals for peace with Israel,” according to Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post.
The reference is to the fact that Arafat failed to establish a Palestinian state before his death in 2004. Yet given the fact that many Palestinians erroneously believe that Arafat was assassinated by Israel, allegedly by radioactive poisoning, the story was quickly distorted into reports that the U.S. had threatened to kill Abbas. A senior official in Fatah, Abbas’s party, accused Kerry of “threatening the life of an elected Palestinian president.”
Kerry has a record of gaffes on Middle East policy, most recently triggering a feud with the Israeli government over his “warning” that Israel might face international boycotts if it failed to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinian leadership. A gaffe last year led to a controversial deal to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons.