So … that would be a no on the peace plan, we assume? At an Arab League meeting in Cairo earlier today, Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority would be “cutting all relations” with both the Israel and the US over Donald Trump’s peace plan.. Abbas has made similar threats in the past, but this time might be different — perhaps even more than Abbas thinks:
At a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, Abbas reiterated his “complete” rejection of Trump’s peace plan, which calls for creating a demilitarized Palestinian state with borders drawn to meet Israeli security needs.
“We’ve informed the Israeli side…that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States including security ties,” Abbas told the one-day extraordinary session to discuss Trump’s plan.
Israeli officials had no immediate comment on his remarks.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces have long cooperated in policing areas of the occupied West Bank that are under Palestinian control. The PA also has intelligence cooperation agreements with the CIA, which continued even after the Palestinians began boycotting the Trump administration’s peace efforts in 2017.
Abbas told the ministers that he’d been refusing to take Trump’s calls lest anyone believe any later claims that Abbas had been consulted. That may not go down as well as Abbas thinks, either:
The Palestinian leader said he refused to take U.S. President Donald Trump’s phone calls and messages “because I know that he would use that to say he consulted us.”
“I will never accept this solution,” Abbas said. “I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem.”
On one level, Abbas has some reason for complaint. Take a look at the map from the Trump plan, and see if you notice one key detail (via Jeff Dunetz):
Other than the existing Gaza border with Egypt, the Palestinians get trapped within Israel. They have no border with the outside world at all, not even with Jordan, their closest cultural connection. Only three sovereign states in the world live entirely within the borders of another sovereign state, and two of them are in Italy — the Vatican and republic of San Marino. The third is Lesotho within South Africa, which with it hasn’t waged war for domination or territory in the way the Palestinians and Israelis have. The Trump plan replaces that land in the Jordan Valley with land near the Egyptian border in which Trump pledges to fund technological and manufacturing industries, but once again leaves a corridor locking the Palestinians within Israel and leaving them dependent on Israel for outside access.
The other complaint is just as obvious. Previous administrations left the question of Jerusalem out of their peace plans, taking the position that the Israelis and Palestinians had to negotiate its status. This time, Trump has settled it himself, with Israel getting Jerusalem and the Palestinians getting East Jerusalem for their capital. That was as good as Abbas would have gotten in any negotiation, but now it’s a diktat, and Abbas likely wouldn’t survive three days if he accepted it. And everybody knows that, even as much as everybody knows Abbas would never have negotiated in good faith on any of this under any circumstances.
That brings us to his audience today. Usually the Arab nations rush to line up behind the Palestinians when it comes to relations with Israel, but that’s changed — significantly. While few of the Sunni nations actually endorsed this plan outright, none of them outright opposed it, either. Instead, they urged the Palestinians to use it as the basis of real negotiations, so much so that Turkey’s Recep Erdogan accused them of treachery in doing so.
This is the clearest signal yet that the Sunni Arab nations in the region no longer view Israel as their biggest concern. They may not be thrilled with their presence in the region, but they have much more grave issues with the rise of Iran as a hegemonic power. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority — and especially Hamas in Gaza — have been getting succor from Iran for many years now, and the Sunni nations are starting to realize that it’s part of an Iranian encirclement campaign that includes Syria, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen.
If Abbas wants to play footsie with Tehran, then the Sunni states don’t need the headache of his cause any longer. They’d rather quietly align with a powerful state that has every reason to oppose Iranian hegemony than an old terrorist who wants to extend it all the way into Jerusalem. That’s why Abbas is likely to get a chillier reception this time at the Arab League, and why his threats to cut off relations will likely fall on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, Abbas might want to think twice about cutting off security ties. We seem to be getting a lot more effective lately. Or does Abbas think these are coincidences?
If his death is confirmed, this would be significant – and the third in a series of significant decapitation strikes after al-Baghdadi/ISIS and Suleimani/Quds Force. https://t.co/hgAcVCJtWt
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) February 1, 2020
Update: One other point on the map is the issue of water. One of the Palestinian’s biggest day-to-day complaints is a lack of access to water, as Israel has largely commanded the high ground throughout the West Bank, including in its settlements. Without access to the Jordan River south of Galilee (even as polluted as it is), the Palestinians will have no redress on water access. It’s very interesting, in that context, that the other Arab nations aren’t raising many objections to this plan, at least not in public. That’s a legitimate concern for the Palestinians in the West Bank.