Report: Saudis and US looking to oust Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas

Washington and Riyadh said to be fed up with Palestinian leader after he shut the door on US peace efforts. 

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

Several sources in the Arab world are reporting that  Saudi Crown Prince Salman has threatened Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with ouster if he “does not cooperate” with US peace plans.

The Middle East Eye (MEE) quotes Palestinian officials as saying that Abbas was summoned to Riyadh last Wednesday and told that the still unreleased US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is the only viable option.  Salman reportedly told Abbas, “The US is the only one with real influence over Israel. It is the only country that can put pressure on Israel in any peace process, and no one, including the UN, EU, Russia and China, can do it, and Abbas must get on board.”

The Saudis are reportedly very upset with Abbas after failing to persuade him to meet with US peace envoys this week.  According to MEE, Salman warned Abbas that if he does not back the pro-Saudi camp,  support will be given to exiled Palestinian politician and longtime Abbas rival Mohammed Dahlan.  A Palestinian official reportedly told MEE that Abbas “kept the door open, telling the Crown Prince, ‘if the US is willing to declare that a peace process is based on the two-state solution on the ’67 boundaries – including East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine – we are ready to engage immediately, but if they want to drag us to the Israeli version of peace, we cannot.'”

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Abbas is convinced that the US peace plan will be a copy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision: A mini-state with Gaza and half of the West Bank, without Jerusalem and no return of Palestinian refugees.

Abbas isn’t backing down

Abbas does not seem to be backing down, and this week he ordered the severing of ties with the US consulate and declared his complete rejection of Washington’s role as an intermediary.  Abbas reportedly told PA officials that Trump is “a lost cause.”

According to Hadashot TV news, Abbas told aides that he was “not merely closing the door” on further dealings with the Trump administration, “but also throwing away the key.”

The Trump administration is also indicating that it will not present its intended peace plan so long as Abbas is boycotting the Trump team.  Reports out of Washington say the US wants to find another leader who is prepared to deal with the US and its peace plan.

Palestinian affairs expert Dr. Gershon Baskin told WIN, “The Saudis might be right in their regional roadmap of interests.  In addition, the Palestinian people want to get rid of Abbas.  I expect that he is on his way out.  There will likely be an interim leadership and then open elections.  I don’t believe that Dahlan would be acceptable.  Former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad would be the best choice for Israel and the US, but he will not be the Palestinian people’s choice.”

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Abbas, 82, not in good health

Basking told WIN,  “Abbas is 82 and not in great health.  Before leaving office he wants to accomplish unification with Gaza under acceptable terms.  For now, he wants to put the Palestinians on a non-violent track of unilateralism and strive for world recognition of a Palestinian state on the ’67 borders.  Abbas does not recognize any natural successor to his leadership.”

Dr. Moshe Amirav of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem disagrees with those wanting Abbas gone. “If Abbas leaves, it will be the end of any chance for a peace process,” Amirav told WIN.  “I have known Abbas for 25 years.  You will never find a more tolerant or capable Palestinian leader.  I was involved in peace negotiations when Ehud Barak Olmert was Prime Minister, and I can tell you that Abbas is the most pragmatic of Palestinian leaders, but no Palestinian leader can give up on the claim to Jerusalem.  No one taking over from him could have a different position than total rejection of the US declaration on Jerusalem.”

According to Amirav, “It was stupid of the US to put Abbas in this kind of situation.  He has been humiliated by President Trump.”

Palestinian affairs expert Yoni Ben Menachem of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs told WIN, “Trump wants Abbas gone.  Unfortunately, there are no clear candidates to replace him. Washington wants Fayyad but may settle on  Majid Faraj, who is head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Services in the PA.  Dahlan has no chance even though I think he is the best choice. Abbas is on his way out because of  age and failing health.  He needs open heart surgery.  Fatah insists that there be primaries and elections.  There will be many candidates, including Jabril Rajoub.  Don’t count out Abbas just yet.  He is cunning and knows how to survive.”