„Palestinian Authority officials were crying smear yesterday about the report broadcast on Israel’s Channel 1 that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas was a Soviet mole. (…) But while it is embarrassing for someone who is treated like a world leader to be branded as a one-time spy, does it really matter what he was doing in the 1980s long before he succeeded Yasir Arafat? From the point of diplomacy, the answer is a clear ‚no.‘ Israel, after all, made deals with Arafat, a terrorist whose hands were soaked in innocent Jewish blood. If Abbas were finally willing to take ‚yes‘ for an answer, rather than to incite hate and violence, no one in Israel would think twice about his KGB past.
As to the details about Abbas’s work for the KGB, it seems very much in keeping with the state of Palestinian nationalism during the era. Most of the various factions that made up the Palestine Liberation Organization identified with the Soviet bloc and depended heavily on Moscow during the Cold War. Abbas was one of many Palestinian operatives who were educated in Russia, where he wrote a doctoral thesis trying to link Zionism to the Nazis and denying the extent of the Holocaust. That he subsequently did some part-time post-graduate information gathering – and was, by no small coincidence, run by an intelligence operative named Mikhail Bogdanov who is now fellow former KGB veteran Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East – as a way of paying off his debt to his hosts was hardly surprising.
Israelis have known about his Holocaust denial since Abbas first came to prominence after the Oslo Accords as Arafat’s top deputy and eventual successor. It’s also no secret that Abbas was one of the planners and financiers of the 1972 Olympic Munich massacre. If that didn’t stop Israeli governments from not only trying to persuade him to make peace but to actively protect him from Hamas, why does anyone think Israelis would care about him gathering information for the Soviets? (…) Being a former Soviet agent doesn’t prevent Abbas from making peace. But it does supply a partial explanation for why he refuses to do it.“
(Jonathan S. Tobin: „Does Abbas’s KGB Past Matter?“)