U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Ramallah last week, and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his top officials are laughing their heads off.
Why not laugh? Biden arrived in the region hoping to persuade the Palestinian leaders to issue a "condemnation" of the reign of terror, which they continue to describe as a "popular and peaceful uprising." This in itself reeks of gallows humor.
But what Biden got was even funnier, from the point of view of Abbas and his friends.
The Palestinian president offered "condolences" over the killing of a U.S. citizen in Jaffa the previous day: "The President [Abbas] offered his condolences over the killing of the US citizen, while stressing at the same time that the occupation authorities have killed 200 Palestinians over the past five months," according to a statement released by the PA leadership in Ramallah.
Abbas's crocodile tears were shed for Taylor Force, a West Point graduate from Texas who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian during a rampage on the Jaffa beachfront promenade. Abbas is doubtless also upset because Israel has killed Palestinian stabbers and shooters.
Just before Biden arrived in Ramallah, Abbas's Fatah faction praised the murderer of Force, calling him a "martyr." But Fatah was quick to delete the posts to avoid embarrassing the Palestinian leadership during Biden's visit.
It seems that the murder of an American visitor is condemnable, but the murder of some 34 Israelis since last October, including a pregnant woman and civilians, is somewhat less so.
Where was the condemnation of the wounding of nine Israelis in the attack that killed Taylor Force? Where was the condemnation of the attacks the took place on that very day in Jerusalem and Petah Tikva?
But Abbas explained everything to Biden: Israel was in fact fully responsible for the "violence and bloodshed" because of the "occupation" and "settlements."
Here is a dirty little secret: the Palestinian attackers were not driven to murder Jews because of "settlements" and "checkpoints."
Check their Facebook accounts: what fueled their hatred were the lies they had been fed for the past few years by President Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, concerning Jews "desecrating" Islamic holy sites and plotting to destroy them. No checkpoint snags, no settlement issues, no protests against construction of new apartments in Jerusalem for Jewish families.
Many of these Palestinians went for Israeli blood because they have been taught -- by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian groups -- to hate Israel. And they do not give a damn whether that Jew lives in Jaffa or in the West Bank. They also do not give a damn if some of their victims are Arabs.
Yet the comedy continues. Biden is reported to have urged Abbas and the Palestinian leadership to stop the anti-Israel incitement in their official media and on social media. Abbas vehemently denied that this incitement was taking place, and indeed, explained that the US leader had gotten things mixed up entirely: it was Israel that was guilty of incitement against the Palestinians.
While Abbas was busy offering his condolences for the killing of the U.S. citizen, his ruling Fatah faction was busy glorifying Palestinian assailants who killed Israelis.
In one instance, Fatah published an announcement inviting Palestinians to mark the 38th anniversary of the "martyrdom" of Dalal Al-Mughrabi.
Al-Mughrabi was a Fatah member who participated in the 1978 Coastal Road massacre in Israel, in which 38 civilians were killed, including 13 children.
The condolence message was also long enough for Fatah to praise Palestinian assailants, including Abdel Malek Abu Kharoub, who carried out a recent shooting attack in Jerusalem. In a post on its official Facebook account, Fatah hailed Abu Kharoub as a "hero and martyr."
Of course neither Biden nor any of his advisors and aides saw these posts. They prefer to continue burying their heads in the sand and pretending that once the "peace process" is revived, everything will be fine.
So it is business as usual for Abbas and crew. As in any comedy, there is a clown, and Biden was played for a fool by a PA leadership that finds that it pays to point its finger at Israel.
In Arabic, a language in which Western leaders are perhaps not fluent, Palestinian media outlets and spokesmen vomit poison against Israel. Condemnation of attacks on Israelis would be rather unlikely in such a drama.
And so the curtain rises on another act of the ceremonial, make-believe theater of the Middle East. In Abbas's sneaky script, it is about settlements. In reality, it is about the refusal of the Americans to read, speak or even translate Arabic.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.