Behind the US peace plan: Why Mahmoud Abbas is in the 'hot seat'

According to Dan Diker, director of the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at JCPA, the U.S. peace plan is a “game changer.”

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Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been meeting with leaders of the Yesha Council in an attempt to resolve disagreements over the proposed map outlining the borders of a prospective Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s efforts come among stark interim opposition to the US peace plan, by some settler leaders, led by David Elhayani, Yesha Council Chairman, and head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council.

More moderate settler leaders, such as Efrat mayor Oded Revivi, back the US vision and support the fresh unity government, in the Jerusalem Post’s recent article “Trump’s Peace Plan Pits Settler Ideologues against Pragmatists,” which captures this tension.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has instructed the IDF to prepare for the application of Israeli sovereignty beginning July 1, 2020. The Western media and many in the EU are “anguishing’ over this prospect.

The reality of the Trump plan differs from media and diplomatic perception. It is not Israeli “annexation” that is under discussion. Annexation only occurs when one sovereign state unilaterally annexes the land of another sovereign state. That is clearly not the case here.

It is the declared intention of Israel to apply civilian law over the Jordan Rift Valley which has been an issue of wall to wall public, political, and security consensus in Israel since June 1967, when Israel was forced to conquer the former Jordanian controlled West Bank to which it ceded claims in July, 1988.

Israel would apply Israeli law to the Jordan Valley, that includes some 25,000 Arabs in villages and towns, who would remain under Palestinian Authority rule, or would possibly receive Israeli residency or citizenship.

The current US peace plan is the first program to recognize Israel’s historical and legal rights and vital security requirements for defensible borders, which has been, since 1967, a Labor party security concept that defined Israeli government and security principles for the Jordan Valley and the Judea Samaria hill ridge, in the context of Israel’s presence in that region.

According to Dan Diker, director of the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), the US peace plan is a “game changer.”

Unlike five decades of failed prior US peace proposals, the current plan recognizes Israel’s security interests first, and then builds a diplomatic strategy to achieve a secure peace that can be defended on the ground.

Past plans started with demanding Israeli concessions and granting Palestinian demands, and then attempted to figure out how to enable Israel to defend itself.

That is why four prior US sanctioned peace plans since Camp David in 2000 failed miserably. There is something more afoot: the US peace plan may be a “breakthrough” putting the Palestinian Authority on the veritable “hot seat.”

A recent Israel Hayom article by Ariel Kahana, “Times are Changing”, reported under the radar support for Israel’s plans at the highest government levels in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, other gulf states, and even in Jordan and Egypt.

Sources close to the leadership in these countries have been quoted as saying that their leaders are tired of being “played” by Mahmoud Abbas and the corrupt PLO-Fatah leadership regarding their self-inflicted grievances. At the same time, Arab kingdoms and states are concerned about confronting the regional threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

The May 19, 2020 declaration by Abbas, ending agreements with Israel under the Oslo II accords of 1995 may have been the last straw. Dan Diker and Khaled Abu Toameh wrote about the consequences in a JCPA analysis, “Mahmoud Abbas’s Strategy of Selective Compliance.” They noted: “Abbas’ latest threat illustrated the effectiveness of the PA leader’s media and diplomatic campaign against Israel. Major international news media outlets and Western diplomats did not see the move as a material breach of the Palestinian leadership’s legal obligations under the Oslo Accords. Abbas’ public announcement abandoning signed agreements with Israel under the Oslo Accords is neither an unprecedented nor isolated event. Abbas’ undiplomatic rhetoric and attacks on Israel and the United States disregarded accepted diplomatic practice.

His statements, threats, and actions reflect a broader strategy of selective compliance to agreements since signing the first of the Oslo Accords with Israel in September 1993. For its part, Israel erred in remaining silent over Palestinian violations for many of the 27 years of the Oslo agreements for fear of losing Palestinian partnership and international support. Israel has paid a high international price in its own state legitimacy over the past two decades for failing to expose and protest the violations.