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Abbas: We Are Ready to Return to the Negotiation Table

July 13, 2020

by: Ilse Strauss

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PA President Abbas with Russian President Putin (illustrative)

Monday, 13 July 2020 | Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas told Russian President Vladimir Putin last week that the Palestinians are prepared to resuscitate Israeli–Palestinian peace talks to hash out a plan that will bring more than seven decades of bloodshed to a harmonious close.

According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas informed Putin of his decision during a telephone discussion on Wednesday. Wafa and perhaps even Abbas himself seemed rather impressed with the magnanimous concession of returning to the negotiation table alongside their Jewish neighbors. The reality is, however, somewhat different.

Abbas demands that the prospective peace talks be based on “international legitimacy” and held under the auspices of the Quartet on the Middle East—a foursome comprising the US, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, tasked with mediating peace between Israel and the Palestinians—with international input, Wafa reported.

The bottom line? The PA rejects the territorial exchanges offered in US President Donald Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan that paves the way for Israel to apply sovereignty to existing Jewish communities amounting to 30% of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley existing alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state on the remaining 70% of the territory.

Instead, the PA wants to push a path to the peace they want in line with their agenda and based on their rules.

The PA submitted a similar “counterproposal” to President Trump’s peace plan late last month. They dispatched a missive to the Quartet offering to resuscitate peace talks with Israel, agreeing to “minor territorial exchanges” based on pre-Six Day War borders and accepting “a state with a limited amount of weapons and…a strong police force,” with an international force, such as NATO, monitoring compliance to a peace treaty.

The letter did, however, threaten to withdraw the offer of “concessions” should Israel apply sovereignty to “any part” of what the PA claims “Palestinian territory.”

This was the first time the Palestinians offered a formal response to President Trump’s peace plan, which was released in January. Ever since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, the PA has boycotted the Trump Administration and cut all ties with the US as well as security cooperation with Israel. The PA also accused the US of a pro-Israel bias and preemptively rejected Trump’s “Deal of the Century” in its entirety, hailing it as the “slap of the century.”

This is also the first time the Palestinians express a willingness to negotiate with Israel after the previous round of peace talks in 2014 went the way of every other round before that: nowhere.

While Abbas’s offer appears to be a step in the right direction, several factors are cause for concern.

First, the past 70 odd years have seen numerous attempts to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians—all unsuccessful. While the Jewish state remains ready to engage in meaningful discussions, Palestinian leaders have consistently shunned Israeli efforts, demanded certain preconditions before starting talks, refused to compromise or simply walked away from the negotiation table not long after sitting down.

Second, if Abbas and the PA so vehemently reject the offer of a whopping 70% of the contested territory earmarked for a Palestinian state, how much will they agree to? 100%? And if so, doesn’t that fly in the face of the definition of a negotiated peace that asks for concessions from both sides?

Lastly, the two main Palestinian political parties, sworn arch enemies Fatah—Abbas’s party and the backbone of the PA—and Hamas—the Sunni-Islamic terrorist organization ruling Gaza with an iron fist—announced they are setting aside decades of feuding and bloodshed to unite the Palestinian people against Israel.

However, the Hamas charter highlights the destruction of Israel as one of the organization’s main purposes. According to the manifesto, Hamas opposes Israel’s existence, seeks to replace the Jewish state with a Palestinian one and calls for jihad (holy war) to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” If Fatah and Hamas unite as the Palestinian leadership, Hamas will sit at the negotiation table too. And willing as Israel is to make concessions for peace, its destruction is hardly a matter up for negotiation.

At the end of the day, talk is cheap. Abbas may ply world leaders with a pitiful victim narrative of a Palestinian people simply wanting to live in peace and willing to sacrifice to do so. He may even convince a world audience that Israel is to blame for the lack of peaceful coexistence with their Palestinian brethren. Tragically, it is the Palestinian people he leads who pay the price for yet another missed opportunity.

Posted on July 13, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 13, 2020)

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