The PLO could soon be negotiating with Israel

Did Abbas declare a resumption of contact with Israel because he wants to please Biden or because he knows time is running out? Op-ed.

David Singer ,

Dry Bones - Is Abbas feeling left out?
Dry Bones - Is Abbas feeling left out?
Y. Kirschen

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) could soon be negotiating with Israel on President Trump’s peace plan - after suddenly announcing on 17 November that it would resume its relationship with Israel as existed before 19 May.

PLO head – Mahmoud Abbas – had broken off all contacts with Israel since May – when declaring:

“The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones. The Israeli occupation authority, as of today, has to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power over the territory of the occupied state of Palestine.”

Abbas’s decision came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told the Israeli Knesset just a few days earlier:

“It’s time to apply the Israeli law and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism. These territories [Judea and Samaria (aka 'West Bank') – ed.] are where the Jewish nation was born and grew”

President Trump’s Middle East plan - released in January - had endorsed Israeli sovereignty on 30 percent of Judea and Samaria in a departure from long-standing U.S. policy.

America’s Ambassador to Israel – David Friedman – had made clear on 6 May that Israel could not act unilaterally without negotiating with the PLO.

“The expectation is that the prime minister will agree to negotiate, and if the Palestinians show up, he will negotiate in good faith based on this plan.”

Friedman however warned:

“If the Palestinians refuse to show up, I’m not sure what else the prime minister can do. But I think there ought to be an unequivocal communication to the Palestinians that they are invited to negotiate in good faith on the president’s vision.”

Netanyahu gave that commitment on 29 June:

“I encourage the Palestinians not to lose another opportunity, not to waste another century trying to destroy Israel. They should embrace Trump’s vision. They should sit down and negotiate in good faith. They should be prepared to negotiate a historic compromise that can bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

“Israel is prepared for such negotiations. I am prepared for such a negotiation. And I’m sure that many Arab states in our region are hoping we enter such negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Alternate Israeli Prime Minister Benny Gantz also urged Abbas to reconsider his refusal to negotiate:

“and not miss another opportunity for positive change, for peace and for prosperity.”

Netanyahu added that the Trump Peace Plan:

“is anchored in a foundation of truth” and “makes clear that the Jewish people have a valid, legal, historic and moral claim to Judea and Samaria, and it supports Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there.”

Abbas has remained unmoved by these urgings – until now.

Instead - Abbas has witnessed the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan normalize their relations with Israel – with Israel holding off any action to unilaterally extend Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.

Abbas has also seen Trump fighting against the odds to become America’s next President.

If Abbas was ever to secure Gaza and 70% of Judea and Samaria offered by Trump for a demilitarized Palestinian Arab State – he had to act now – and perhaps he has.

60 days are left for the commencement and finalization of negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

Should negotiations not occur or fail – an independent Palestinian Arab enity of any sort – promised between Jordan and Israel for the first time in recorded history - will end up in the graveyard of failed Middle East diplomatic initiatives.

Author’s note: The cartoon—commissioned exclusively for this article—is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones”—one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators—whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades. His cartoons can be viewed at Drybonesblog.