After curses and aid cuts, has ‘desperate’ Abbas reached dead end?

US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt returned to Israel only days after the Palestinian leader cursed President Trump and rejected any role for the US in the peace process.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt arrived in Israel on Wednesday, only three days after the Mahmoud Abbas’ meltdown speech in which the Palestinian leader ruled out Washington’s role in the peace process “as long as Trump is in the White House.” Abbas also uttered an Arabic curse at Trump, roughly translated as “May your house be demolished.”

Greenblatt is due to meet with envoys from the Middle East Quartet comprised of the US, European Union, United Nations and Russia. The White House says that Greenblatt “will be attending a regular meeting of the Quartet envoys to exchange information and continue our engagement on advancing peace.” But with Abbas seemingly pulling away from the peace process, Israel and Washington are both trying to determine what the next Palestinian move will be, and whether there is a way to move forward.

Abbas was reportedly furious after being given a preliminary account of Trump’s peace plan given to him by the Saudis. Written by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the plan reportedly envisions a Palestinian entity that is less than a state, with borders that are not based on the pre-1967 lines. Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will remain in place and Israel will continue to control the Jordan Valley, with the final status of Jerusalem to be an issue for negotiations.

The US has yet to officially released its proposals and for now the Americans are saying that they will present a draft directly to the Israelis and the Palestinians at the appropriate time and under the right conditions. In the meantime, they remain hard at work drafting a plan “that benefits both sides.”

By ruling out the US as a mediator, Abbas effectively launched a preemptive strike to torpedo the negotiations before the Americans even finished drafting the peace plan, thereby avoiding having to reject it after it is made public.

Palestinian frustration

Dr. Moshe Amirav from Hebrew University told World Israel News (WIN), “The Palestinians are frustrated and they feel very strongly that the US is not an honest broker and they are not objective on the issues. Abbas would renew the peace process, but only through the mediation of either the Arab League or the European Union. I would strongly suggest to our government that we agree to allow the Arab League to initiate talks. We and the Palestinians would sit with Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the room and find a solution. If Egypt and the Saudis agree then the Palestinians cannot refuse. The Saudis are realists. They do not insist on the ‘return of refugees’ and generally their views are acceptable to Israel and could provide a real way forward.”

Former Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf told WIN, “Since the Palestinians are not ready for compromise, what we should do is use this opening to work with the US administration to define our eastern border along the Jordan River, annex ‘settlements’ close to the green line and declare that beyond that, we have no territorial claims. Israel does not want to annex the entire ‘West Bank’ and we must make it clear that we are still ready for compromise. If the US presents its ‘peace plan’ we should say ‘yes.’ The time for constructive ambiguity is over. What we need is specificity on borders, refugees and Jerusalem.”

Dan Diker from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs told WIN that he met Wednesday morning with a former senior PA official who told him that Abbas still wants a peace deal but “his frustrations are overwhelming him.”

“Despite his terrible anti-Israel and anti-US outbursts, Abbas is not dropping his commitment to the peace process or the Oslo framework. He wants to ‘save Palestinian honor’ by showing that he won’t bow to dictates or pressure. Abbas will try to internationalize mediation efforts by involving Europe and the Russians. Israel will never accept. The US and Israel feel that we are in a strong position because there is new found pressure on the Palestinians from the Saudis and Egypt,” Diker said.

According to Diker, “Prime Minister Netanyahu has been vindicated by Abbas’ speech. For years he has been correctly insisting that the root cause of the conflict with the Palestinians is their public rejection of a Jewish State in the Middle East.”

Rhetoric vs. Action

Col. (Res.) Miri Eisin a former communications director in the Prime Minister’s office told WIN, “We must separate Palestinian rhetoric from action. The Palestinians have not actually done anything. The only party that has taken actual steps has been the United States with its Jerusalem declaration and withholding of funds for UNRWA. If Abbas does goes through with a threatened boycott of Greenblatt, that would be an action. I am doubtful he will snub the American mediator and this should be a good opportunity to see where the Palestinians are really at.”

Palestinian Affairs expert Pinchas Inbari told WIN, “Abbas will follow through and disengage from Trump envoys Jared Kushner and Greenblatt, but he will stay engaged by continuing to meet with the American consul in Jerusalem. He still plans to travel to Brussels on January 22nd to meet with the EU which indicates his interest in getting the Europeans to fill in for the Americans. Abbas does not want an end to the Oslo process but he is looking for support against the US position. Abbas is desperate to find a new way to move the peace process forward, without American mediation.”