Archive for the ‘End of an error?’ category

Abbas’ ultimatum to Trump: Choose between a Palestinian Jerusalem or war

January 17, 2018

Abbas’ ultimatum to Trump: Choose between a Palestinian Jerusalem or war, DEBKAfile, January 17, 2018

(Please see also, Did Abbas just give his valedictory speech, blaming everyone for his failures? — DM)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) speaks during a meeting with members of the Central Committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. Photo by Flash90

The Palestinian leader finds himself tied down by two handicaps: shortage of funds for buying supporters and his advanced age. At 82, he may choose a fourth option, to retire voluntarily and make way for a younger leader.

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Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas kicked back hard after grasping he was confronted with an orderly, Arab-backed US peace plan that left his strategy in ruins.

Abbas now sees he is cornered by his nemesis: Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, was not just a one-off whim, but a component of the “deal of the century,” which the US president and his advisers had crafted for months together with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman and the UAE ruler Sheikh Muhammed Bin Ziyad.

The Palestinian leader’s first predicament was how to explain to the Palestinian and Arab public what happened to his master strategy of the past 25 years, for using world opinion to force a pro-Palestinian peace solution down Israel’s throat. Not too long ago, Abbas boasted he was about to pull it off. Now it is crashing before his eyes. It is not enough for him to yell that the “deal of the century” is the “slap of the century.”

Here and there, he may find international pro-Palestinian stalwarts, but the doors are slamming shut as funds for UN bodies and NGOs dry up. Even the Europeans, who dislike Trump and sympathize with the Palestinians, are beginning to think twice about sticking to a blunt line against the US and Israel. They are reluctant to buck the two allies’ partners, the oil-rich Saudi and Emirate rulers, a luxury they can ill afford in these times of profound economic decline.

Much of the criticism of the US-Arab peace plan is prompted by a misapprehension. The plan is based strongly on a two-state solution that offers the Palestinians their own state and negates binational Israeli-Palestinian statehood. But the contours are different from any former peace proposal. Gone for good are the pre-1967 war lines which were Abbas’ sine qua non. According to the fragments leaked about the new proposal, which is still on the work bench, this Palestinian state would rise on territory currently governed by the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria. Its backbone would be formed by the chain of Palestinian towns running from Nablus in the north through Ramallah and Bethlehem and up to Hebron in the south. They would link up with the Gaza Strip and acquire parts of northern Sinai, presumably Egyptian Rafah and El Arish.

According to this plan, the governmental and population of the new Palestinian state would be oriented mainly in the south, so that Jerusalem would not be relevant as its capital. It would still have Ramallah and possibly Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem, where government and parliamentary compounds were installed long ago, after one of several stillborn peace initiatives.

This plan for Palestinian statehood bears little resemblance to the goal of the 50-year old Palestinian struggle. The Palestinian national movement has consistently aspired to a state that would swallow Israel and extinguish the Zionist vision. However, the contemporary Palestinian state as envisaged in the new plan would be dependent for its strength and survival on Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all of which maintain good security and economic ties with Israel.

For Mahmoud Abbas this prospect is anathema. He is so beside himself that on Sunday, he cursed the house of US President Donald Trump before the PLO central committee. But, then on Monday, Jan. 16, Trump whipped out his ultimate weapon and slashed aid to the UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian refugees, from $165m to $60m.

For many years, UNWRA has been a powerful political sponsor of any Palestinian group willing to join the “struggle” against Israel. Its personnel were flush with the funds paid in as dues by UN members, unlike the often cash-strapped Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Trump therefore decided that the key to getting the US-Arab peace plan on its feet would be to cut off the flow of cash to its opponents. It is a little-known fact that he was joined in this endeavor by the Saudis, the Emiratis and even Qatar, all of whom started some weeks ago to staunch aid funds to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority and its chairman Mahmoud Abbas therefore find they are being squeezed into an US-Arab blockade, which leaves Abbas with three options:

  1. To realize his back is to the wall and he has no option other than to accept the “deal of the century.”
  2. Face being ousted by the rest of the Palestinian leadership and replaced with a successor who is amenable to reaching an understanding with the Trump administration, Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
  3. Regress to Yasser Arafat’s doctrine of armed struggle – not just against Israel this time but against US targets as well. Abbas indicated that was on the warpath when he challenged President Trump in a ferocious speech he delivered in Cairo Wednesday, Jan 17. He shouted, “Jerusalem would be a gate for peace only when it was the capital of Palestine. But it is also a gate for war, insecurity and instability, if not. Trump must choose.”

His barefaced ultimatum to the US president was accompanied by a rumor his cronies began to circulate, charging that the Trump administration was plotting to forcibly depose Abbas as PA chairman. The Palestinian leader finds himself tied down by two handicaps: shortage of funds for buying supporters and his advanced age. At 82, he may choose a fourth option, to retire voluntarily and make way for a younger leader.

Did Abbas just give his valedictory speech, blaming everyone for his failures?

January 15, 2018

Did Abbas just give his valedictory speech, blaming everyone for his failures? Times of IsraelAvi Issacharoff, January 15, 2018

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Sunday’s address by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council sounded like the farewell of a leader at the end of his political path, and he admitted as much.

“This may be the last time that you see me here,” Abbas said in his speech in Ramallah.

In March, Abbas will celebrate his 83rd birthday, and he will be hard-pushed, in celebration, to point to a single significant achievement over the past few years. With no political solution on the horizon, the idea of a two-state solution becoming a sad joke, and the prospects of a unity deal with the Hamas terror group fading daily, it seems that even Abbas has thrown up his hands in despair.

Telling US President Donald Trump, “May God demolish your house,” could be attributed to the general “Trumpism” which has seized world leaders, but it also points to the deep despair of the Palestinian leadership.

In his first years as Palestinian leader, and especially after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, Abbas succeeding in doing what his predecessor, Yassar Arafat, had not attempted. He ended the chaos that ruled in the West Bank and established a degree of law and order. Together with the Palestinian security forces and with the help of Israel, Abbas managed to stabilize the West Bank and to remove the gunmen from the streets of Palestinian cities. That had previously appeared an impossible goal.

However, since the change of government in Israel, after the resignation of Ehud Olmert — who had offered Abbas the entire West Bank and never received an answer — together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 election victory, and especially since Trump entered the White House in 2017, the vision of two states realized through negotiations with Israel has evaporated into the thin air of history.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

The banner that Abbas waved time after time, as official and unofficial policy — establishing the State of Palestine along the 1967 borders — became an idea disconnected from reality. It is easy to blame Trump for this situation, but to be realistic, that has been the case since 2009.

The rule of Hamas in Gaza and Israeli settlement building showed clearly that the dream was one thing and the reality was another. Trump’s December 6 White House speech, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, only made matters clearer for the Palestinians, as did the message sent from Saudi Arabia about the “deal of the century” being drawn up by the Trump administration.

The frustration of Abbas and his colleagues was palpable. Furthermore, on Sunday, he did what he is so good at doing — blaming the entire world for the situation of the Palestinians, from the US, to Israel, Hamas, and even the Europeans, for their role in sending the Jews to Israel.

Abbas also dedicated a large part of his address to his internal critics — not only Fatah activists who refused to participate in the conference, but also Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terror groups, who stayed away as well.

Israel, he further charged, destroyed the Oslo accords. “Israel is a colonialist project, which has nothing to do with the Jews,” he added.

Trump gave the Palestinians a slap in the face, he lamented. “The deal of the century became the slap of the century.”

Only a few in the Palestinian Authority and the top echelons of Fatah and the PLO were left off of his list of the culprits behind the failure.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

When one looks at the faces of those participating in the Sunday-Monday conference, it is clear how insistently the PLO and Fatah have refused to change or reform. The leaders today are much the same ones who led the PLO in the 1980s in Lebanon and the West Bank.

In this vein, over the last few years, Abbas has made sure that he has no heir, nor even a clear official process for choosing a successor. He ignored calls for reform and any kind of criticism. He made sure to isolate and weaken the most popular leader in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned since 2002 and sentenced by a civilian Israeli court to five life terms for orchestrating a series of terrorist murders during the Second Intifada.

In what seemed like a valedictory address Sunday, Abbas promised that the Palestinians would not give up their rights, that payments to families of terrorists would not stop, and that he would not allow the Americans to mediate in the negotiations. These and many other “nos.”

“We do not take instructions from anyone, and say ‘No’ to anyone, if it is about our destiny, our cause, our country and our people… 1,000 times no,” he said.

Which left many Palestinians asking themselves a simple question — one that many people in Israel also ask their leaders: “So what is ‘yes?’”

It seems unlikely that the answer will be forthcoming during the Abbas-Trump-Netanyahu era.