Abbas shuts the door to negotiations with Israel
By Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
On November 29, 2014, the Arab Peace Initiative Committee of the Arab League Council approved a political-action plan submitted by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), "president of the state of Palestine," which aims to "bring an end to the Israeli occupation of lands of the state of Palestine."1 An announcement published at the end of the meeting held in Cairo said the issue had been transferred to the Arab League Council appropriate action. A diplomatic official told the Al Arabiya network that Jordan, currently the only Arab member of the UN Security Council, will submit in the coming days a proposal for a resolution along the lines of Abbas' plan.
The political plan Abbas presented was detailed in a speech he gave to the Arab League Council. The plan involves internationalizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by submitting a proposal for a resolution to the Security Council, whereby the Security Council would fix a date for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In his speech Abbas, who claimed there was no longer an Israeli partner for a political settlement, set forth the other components of his plan. They include: the "state of Palestine" joining international conventions and organizations, particularly the International Criminal Court in The Hague and a conference of states parties to the Geneva conventions, where one of the resolutions would be to declare the conventions applicable to the state of Palestine;" requesting the United Nations to provide protection to the Palestinian people; and a diplomatic effort to convince additional states to recognize the "state of Palestine."
Abbas' political plan shuts the door to any possibility of reaching a political settlement through negotiations with Israel. Whereas Abbas conveys to the world at large that he remains committed to the path of negotiations, the conditions he has presented for resuming them entail imposing terms on Israel with no reciprocity from the Palestinians in the context of a political compromise. Abbas says Palestinian conditions for renewing the talks include: ending construction in the settlements, freeing the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners (terrorists who are Israeli citizens and are serving prison sentences), withdrawing IDF forces from parts of Area A in the West Bank that are supposed to be under the Palestinian Authority's full security control, and Israeli agreement to negotiate with the Palestinians on making the 1967 lines the border between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.
Abbas is trying to exert pressure on the United States, the international community, and Israel simultaneously. He told the Arab League Council that he sees no need to wait for the results of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's attempt to bridge the Israeli and Palestinian positions, and that, if the United States vetoes the resolution in the Security Council, he would then reassess relations with Israel, end security cooperation with it (which is aimed at preventing terror), and transfer control of the "state of Palestine" to Israel, which he called "the occupying state." By means of that scenario – which could foster political and security chaos leading to an Israeli-Palestinian confrontation (a third intifada) that would have a regional and international impact – Abbas hopes to goad the international community into forcing Israel to fulfill the Palestinian condition of recognizing a sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, without a peace agreement being signed.
Thus the Palestinian Authority is determined, even at the price of a run-in with the United States and Israel, to advance a unilateral political process that is aimed against Israel and has the full support of the Arab League. The rioting and terror in Jerusalem and the West Bank, which are being encouraged by the Palestinian Authority, serve this political process as a form of pressure on Israel and also are aimed at spurring the international community's intervention. Abbas not only has not condemned the wave of Palestinian anti-Israeli terror but, in traditional fashion, his speeches have reiterated the formula of "praise to the pure martyrs, freedom to the heroic prisoners, and rapid recovery to the heroic wounded." What this adds up to is backing for every Palestinian who takes part in the struggle against Israel, including terrorist murderers.
The unilateral Palestinian political process marks the launching of an all-out political campaign against Israel accompanied by terror that could develop into an armed intifada. In relation to the international community Abbas has a supreme interest in maintaining the tenuous unity agreement with Hamas, since it indicates that the Palestinian Authority exercises rule (actually only apparent) over Gaza as well. Hamas, the real and unquestioned ruler of Gaza, is extending a rope to Abbas because it sees him as a means, in the international sphere, of attaining the "liberation" of the West Bank, which Hamas wants to take over in a similar way that it drove Fatah from Gaza in the summer of 2007. Hence, for the time being, Hamas is not likely to initiate hostilities with Israel from Gaza, and most of the terror effort will be directed at the West Bank and, from it, at Israel, while continuing to rehabilitate and build up terror infrastructures and military capabilities in Gaza.
Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd.