Trump envoy Greenblatt calls for unifying Gaza-PA, but plan may be dead in the water

U.S. Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt revealed that the administration’s peace plan calls for unification of Gaza and Judea and Samaria. 

By Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The yet-to-be-revealed U.S. peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians includes the reunification of Hamas-controlled Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt told Israel’s Ynet news Tuesday.

Greenblatt is the Special Representative for International Negotiations to U.S. President Donald Trump. He has been working on the plan for the past 19 months together with senior administration officials. His remarks attempted to dispel Palestinian claims that the plan calls for leaving Gaza a separate entity.

“Let’s be clear. Gaza and Judea and Samaria were separated for 10 years not only physically, but also politically between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, denying the reality would be absurd,” Greenblatt said. “Contrary to [Palestinian] claims, the U.S. plan is to unite them,” he said.

“Make no mistake, we are here to help all the Palestinians, both in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza, and the disinformation that is being disseminated by those who are not exposed to the plan and want to spoil it does not help ordinary Palestinians,” he underscored, criticizing the PLO for disparaging the plan before seeing it.

U.S. officials have noted in recent weeks that the pending proposal will not require Israel to make concessions in the areas of security, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “will have to demonstrate leadership and make difficult decisions.”

Trump expects both Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to respond positively to the plan and start negotiations on the basis of the proposals that it will include. Most Israelis will find that the plan is “quite logical,” a U.S. official said.

However, the Palestinians have rejected any notion of a U.S.-brokered diplomatic solution. They’ve boycotted Washington since December when Trump announced that the U.S. officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and they have escalated their rhetoric and actions against the U.S.

A viable plan?

Palestinian affairs expert Yoni Ben-Menachem, an analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a leading Israeli think tank in the areas of security and regional diplomacy, believes Greenblatt’s plan is dead in the water.

Ben-Menachem said that the linkage idea is nothing new and had already been incorporated into the 1994 Oslo Accords. The Accords prescribed a “safe route” connecting Gaza to the PA, but following the security threats posed to Israel by the route, it was never implemented.

He further noted that the Hamas terror group which rules Gaza does not recognize the Oslo Accords, and therefore its implementation vis-à-vis Gaza is of no relevance.

Ben-Menachem says that the U.S. plan, as outlined by Greenblatt to Ynet, is naïve and irrelevant as long as Hamas rules Gaza. Israel has no plans to topple the Hamas government in Gaza. Therefore Hamas will continue to dictate policies in Gaza, and the U.S. plan isn’t feasible, he notes.

Abbas has no interest in unification, Ben-Menachem says, as it would only strengthen Hamas’ influence in the PA, a development detrimental to Abbas’s ruling Fatah.

Abbas wants to take control of Gaza. He has resorted to punishing Hamas by withholding salaries of civil servants and blocking humanitarian and other aid from reaching the Strip. The PA will vote at the end of the month whether to impose further sanctions. The PA will also vote to disband the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Legislative Council, the unicameral legislature of the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli opposition

Israel also views PA-Hamas unification negatively, Ben-Menachem said. This leaves the U.S. without a partner to the plan. It won’t “pass the test of reality,” he noted.

Israel would prefer to see Gaza connected to Egypt, not the PA, he says. Gaza was administered by Egypt prior to the 1967 Six Day War. As Egypt shares a border with the Strip, a plan to rehabilitate Gaza under Egyptian tutelage  is not impossible.

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Ben-Menachem believes Greenblatt’s statements are a “trial balloon,” an attempt to air some of the administration’s ideas and see what reactions they elicit.

The Trump administration has good intentions, Ben-Menachem says, but Israel’s security necessities are paramount and in the current regional configuration, Israel will not be able to accept such terms.