President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas is getting the royal treatment on a three day state visit to The Netherlands.
Queen Beatrix received Mr Abbas at the Peace Palace in The Hague, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte hosted him at his official residence. Representatives from both houses of parliament also threw out the red carpet, inviting him to speak in the ornate Senate hall. All of this for a man who leads no country, and controls only half the entity of which he is president.
• Video: Criticism by MP Geert Wilders, who had described Mr Abbas as a holocaust denier, did not appear to worry the president. "I don't know him," Mr Abbas said.
From his side, Mr Abbas is visiting one of Israel’s closest allies; the current Dutch government’s official policy is to further strengthen ties with Israel.
President Abbas is on a tour to drum up support for his plan to ask the United Nations for recognition of Palestine as a full-fledged member (117 countries have already promised their support). However, Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has made it quite clear that the Netherlands will not support the plan. So what is Mr Abbas doing here?
"First of all, we know that the government of The Netherlands is a friend of Israel, which doesn’t disturb us at all. Because if they are a friend of Israel and a friend of ours they can play a very productive role. It doesn’t mean that they will agree with us on everything, but we have to try."
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has been assisting the Palestinians. The Dutch government has an official representative in the Palestinian Territories, and gives 50 million euros annually in aid. Palestine will continue to receive direct Dutch aid, even as other countries are cut.
But many here are not pleased with Mr Abbas’ visit. Two parties boycotted the official reception: the small Reformed Political Party (SGP) and Geert Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party.
SGP MP Elbert Dijkgraaf took part in a demonstration protesting the visit even as his colleagues met with the Palestinian leader. For his part, Mr Wilders says Mr Abbas denies the extent of the Holocaust, referring to his 1984 doctoral thesis from Partice Lumumba University in Moscow.
Another MP uncomfortable with the visit decided to give the Palestinian leader the benefit of the doubt. Joel Voordewind took part in MPs' discussion with Mr Abbas, but left disappointed. He said Mr Abbas avoided answering his questions.
"I think he’s a typical Arab leader who can have two faces, who can be very friendly to the west, and to the Arab world can be very militant."
Other MPs who took part in the meeting came out with a different impression. Labour Party MP Frans Timmermans found the discussion very frank and open. He feels the Palestinian leader shouldn't need to keep reaffirming his commitment to the peace process.
"I think he’s been very clear on all these issues and I’m really getting sick and tired of this increasing level of propaganda with these nonsense stories about what Abbas said, or did, or didn’t do or didn’t say."
Mr Timmermans said President Abbas deftly addressed the question of supporting terrorism by admitting that both sides started as terrorist movements. The Israelis resorted to terrorism in building their state, said Mr Abbas, and so did the Palestinians. But, he said, "we’ve moved beyond that, we are in a different phase now."
Foreign Minister Rosenthal, who doesn’t hide his personal inclination to support Israel, was also satisfied with the visit. The Dutch government wants to stay involved in Palestine, even if it does not support the push for statehood. For instance, Mr Rosenthal feels Dutch development aid is in good hands.
"Let me also say emphatically that no Dutch or EU aid should go to Hamas. I don’t need to say that I will strictly monitor this, because president Abbas has left no doubt that he fully endorses this position."
The Netherlands wants to stay involved. And for the Palestinians, it’s always good to have the ear of Israel’s best friend in Europe.