The President’s Political Stick in the Face of Israel’s Annexation Plan

President Abbas declared that the Palestinian Authority (PA) absolved all of the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones.
Written by: Ghazi Mortaja

The Palestinian leadership is walking on a thin, tight rope, as its political realism guarantees its stability while awaiting a change in light of Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. It might result, for example, in establishing a balance of power based on calculated global strategic interests, which is an uncertain and risky process; but it is not impossible due to the world’s restlessness of American politics.

During the recent leadership meeting, the Palestinian President and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, announced his decisions in response to Israel’s annexation plan. Hamas and Jihad did not attend the meeting. The participation of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which caused confusion, led to a delay in the speech of President Abbas, because of the confrontation that occurred between the President and the representative of the Front.

The Palestinian leaders in the meeting changed their tone of threat to an act of implementation, as the decisions taken date back to 2017, in which they were later confirmed in three subsequent sessions by the Palestinian Central Council. The most intense was on the day the American embassy moved to occupied Jerusalem, where a meeting was held that was attended by representatives of Hamas and Jihad. President Abbas repeated the same decisions in several leadership meetings, namely: a new body that includes the Executive Committee of the PLO, the Fatah Central Committee, representatives of Palestinian parties, independent figures and businessmen.

President Abbas declared that the Palestinian Authority (PA) absolved all of the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones. After the U.S. President, Donald Trump, recognized occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, President Abbas confirmed, at the time, that there will not be any relations at all with the Trump administration, except for relations with the CIA due to their collaboration in combating terrorism. President Abbas did not hide this cooperation, as he boasted about it during his speech to Arab Foreign Ministers last February, after U.S. President, Donald Trump, and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, jointly announced the terms of the so-called “Deal of the Century.”

The Palestinian President’s announcement to complete the accession of the State of Palestine to international organizations, agreements and treaties means that the President and the leadership decided to maintain the international community’s support and remain in the current status quo. It is also evident from the reminder of the necessity to hold an international peace conference, that the President is completely convinced of the possibility of a change in the power structure and global alliances, which is why he continued to maneuver in this regard. The Palestinian President also emphasized the European countries’ rejection of Israel’s plan to annex the West Bank, while asking other countries to recognize the State of Palestine, of which any subsequent recognition would be an achievement in light of Israel’s plan. President Abbas further directed a message to the European Union indicating that it’s time for the Europeans to portray their position through action, such as recognizing the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders and taking actual stances against the policies of the Israeli government, especially its settlement project. The Palestinian leadership’s decisions didn’t include the ending of the division or rushing towards reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, as was the practice in every previous meeting due to Hamas’s attempt to consolidate its authority over the Gaza Strip during the Covid-19 crisis.

The foregoing composes a set of pragmatic ideas that provide a perspective for examining the most prominent question: What solutions are available to the Palestinian leadership?
The Palestinian leadership knows that Israel, with the United States’ support, is continuing to implement its plans to annex settlements in the West Bank, as it aspires to conduct their dream of a Greater Israel since its inception in 1948. Such a favorable opportunity will not be lost as long as President Trump is in power.  As the Palestinian leadership realizes that there is very little room to maneuver in order to improve the Palestinians’ reality, President Abbas is counting on the possibility of a change in the balance of power, including the American administration next November.

In other words, the Palestinian leadership is awaiting international change. The decisions that are repeatedly taken and reformulated since President Trump’s coup against American policy in dealing with the Palestinian issue since the Oslo agreement, will not lead to implementation on the ground. Even security coordination (whether with Israel in accordance with the Oslo agreement or with the U.S. intelligence) will not be permanently and continuously stopped; but rather it will be a stick used for a short period of time to collect interim gains.

It appears that the options of the Palestinian leadership shrink day after day, for what was available yesterday is not available today. It was evident that there were not any strategic visions regarding these decisions in the interview held by Palestine TV with Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and the Executive Committee of the PLO. He restored the leadership’s decision to stop the work of the agreements and discussed the formation of committees and how to initiate the analysis of the Oslo agreement.

Until the vision becomes clear in the upcoming year, it is necessary to review the functional role of the limited autonomous authority, which is the same ideas expressed by the Palestinian President in his speech after President Trump’s announcement of the so-called “Deal of the Century.” However, this requires the unification of the Palestinian ranks, starting from the historical factions of the PLO, through working to re-weave the relationship between the PA and the PLO. In order to achieve this, there must be a re-examination and activation of the institutions of the PLO by ending the system in place since the signing of the Oslo agreement, which caused the weighting of the PA’s institutions at the expense of the PLO’s institutions. Indeed, in the last decade, the PLO’s historical role has gradually ended.

In parallel, work must be done to end the geo-political division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which will enable President Abbas to have the upper hand in the event that this is implemented strategically rather than tactically. The Palestinians need unity today more than ever, as the volatile regional alliances of Hamas can be considered as “strategic mistakes.” Hamas is controlling the Gaza Strip with de facto force, which will indirectly paralyze the Palestinians’ collective ability to confront it even if the power structure, which the Palestinian President relies on, changes in the future.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor. 

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