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The Arab pressure on the Palestinian leadership

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with Saudi's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 7 November 2017 [Thaer Ganaim/Apaimages]

Palestinian news items, or leaks, report that Arab leaders are putting immense pressure on the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations and restore security coordination, at the highest level, with Israel.

In public statements, leaders are linking the resumption of negotiations with the two-state solution and the Arab peace initiative. There has also been talk from time to time about timeframes, serious negotiations and other conditions and requirements. The purpose of these requirements is to give an early answer to the questions regarding the feasibility of resuming negotiations, before anyone dares to propose them.

No Arab official has said that Israel has accepted the Arab peace initiative, which was announced exactly 15 years ago today. Moreover, none of them can say for sure that Israel is a single influential force that wants or can, if it wants to, authorise the two-state solution on behalf of the Israeli electorate, which is open about its religious and national extremism.

I am almost certain that most, if not all, Arab leaders are convinced that the two-state solution is behind them, not in front of them, or awaiting the Palestinian people suffering under the oppression of the occupation. However, although they are the ones who decided long ago that peace was their only strategic option and that more negotiations are the one way that they can achieve the concept of “land for peace”, they no longer have the means or ability to come up with new forms of pressure and threats to the occupation authorities and their supporters. They no longer have a “Plan B” to deal with the phase following the decline of the peace and negotiations path.

Read: Despite his talk of ‘reconciliation’, Abbas continues to act in Israel’s interests

In their struggle with Israel, the Arabs conceded the option of power, including “soft power”, and replaced the policy of threats and hints with one of temptation and enticement. This is the essence of the transformation in the 2002 Beirut Summit which produced the Arab Initiative.

They offered Israel reconciliation and normalisation on behalf of 22 Arab states in order to encourage it to end its occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories. They then “Islamified” this offer, and spoke on behalf of 57 Muslim countries that would agree to opening Israeli embassies flying the Israeli flag in their capital cities. However, this was in vain.

Every time the efforts to “tempt Israel” failed to achieve their goal due to the Apartheid state’s insatiable appetite for more land, the Arabs would find their outlet by pressuring the weaker side of the equation, the Palestinians.

All of the concessions imposed on the Palestinians, from establishing a vision for the solution of the refugee issue that drops Resolution 194 — as Israel has the right to veto any solution — to the idea of land swaps, incomplete sovereignty, unspecified time frames and other concessions aiming to facilitate Israel’s begrudging acceptance of the solution, were useless.

Read: The backdrop of Palestinian reconciliation

Although the Palestinian leadership is regarded to be among the Arab leaders and officials, unlike the others in the cohort their hands are actually in the fire. They realised too late that the purpose of negotiations, from the Israeli perspective, is to provide cover for illegal settlement expansion and “Israelisation” and “Judaisation” projects, and then decided to end them officially. However, they did not close the side and back channels in the hope that the moment might arrive when they could engage in fruitful negotiations with a specific agenda and relatively short timeframe.

The Arabs were not happy with this. When the latest round of pressure was applied on Abbas to resume negotiations with Netanyahu in 2014, under the auspices of the then US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Palestinian side was not keen on a resumption of talks. However, it was insistent on not angering Jordan or the US, and so succumbed to the pressure and the rest of the story is well known: deep negotiations, with nothing gained, that immediately collapsed and were forgotten.

Today, as we await the revelation of the “deal of the century”, pressure to resume negotiations is being imposed once again, and intensifying, without any Arab country having any guarantee, or even an idea, of what the results and consequences of such negotiations will be.

#PeaceDeal

They are concerned with having a “peace process”, even if it does not lead to any results. It is unacceptable to them to say that the peace process has died and that it is time to bury it. If peace is impossible, there is no problem, in their eyes, with clinging to the delusion of peace, because who has the time, courage and luxury of coming up with a Plan B?

I had thought that the Arabs pressured the Palestinians voluntarily in order to be a part of the “peace camp” ranks and remained committed to the option of negotiations to serve their goals related to their feelings that this path has not yet reached a dead end. I have realised, though, that the Arabs are pressuring the Palestinians despite knowing the results beforehand.

The new development in this round of pressure is that it is more dangerous than anything applied previously, as it is related to the essence and core of the Palestinians’ legitimate national rights, their national programme and their main constants. This time, the Palestinians do not have the luxury of “going with the flow” or “flattery”, while some Arab leaders are not ready to hear condolences for the peace process. The Trump administration has not left them much room for manoeuvre, and so they must participate in reviving the negotiations process and paving the way for the US President’s great “deal”, albeit through a single gateway: more pressure on the Palestinians.

Translated from Thenewkhalij, 30 November 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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