Trump’s peace team keeps its head down amid Abbas onslaught

Administration officials hope the publication of new peace plan will create a new reality in the politics of the process and negate the admittedly adverse effect the Jerusalem announcement has had.

Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting speaks about Abbas quitting the peace process, December 24, 2017. (Video credit: GPO)
NEW YORK – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed on Friday a year’s worth of work from the White House peace team on proposals for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, accusing US President Donald Trump of disqualifying himself from any future diplomatic process by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But the Trump administration is, in turn, dismissing Abbas’ dismissal, insisting that his response to the move is a temporary tantrum that will eventually pass.
A White House official told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Abbas’ statement in Paris is part of the “same cooling off period” they expected would result from the Jerusalem announcement.
“We don’t see this as any different from what he said before,” the official said.
But three weeks on from Trump’s dramatic proclamation, Abbas has shown no sign of cooling off – instead specifying his concerns with America’s position and personalizing them to the president.
Speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris this week, Abbas said again he would seek to internationalize the conflict by turning to parties that had previously played side roles in direct talks in the past: France, the European Union , Russia and the United Nations.
“The US can no longer be considered an honest broker,” Abbas said. “We will not accept any American plan. The US has disqualified itself as an honest broker by making a decision which contradicts international law.”
He and the rest of the PA refused to meet with Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, during his visit to the region last week. Greenblatt is leading the administration’s daily work on a peace plan it says will provide detailed US-led proposals to resolve dozens of sticking points in the conflict.
But Abbas has turn ed to powers that are largely deferential to the United States, regardless of the administration in power. And several of those nations are once again awaiting the publication of a White House peace plan for judgment.
Macron, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and foreign minister have all condemned Trump’s Jerusalem decision. But they have also called upon the administration to proceed with its peace plan with haste, hoping a detailed document will speak to the care and deliberation that have gone into its efforts thus far.
The very parties that Abbas has turned to for a different path forward are providing Trump’s negotiating team with what they have requested: time and space to complete the structure for a Middle East peace initiative they insist will be serious.
Administration officials hope the publication of this plan will create a new reality in the politics of the peace process and negate the admittedly adverse effect the Jerusalem announcement has had on the pursuit of peace and on relations with the PA. Upon its release, they believe the nations Abbas asked for help will demand he give the US proposal a chance.
According to a senior White House official, the peace team “ will continue to work on our plan for peace that we hope will offer the best outcome for both peoples , and look forward to unveiling it when it is ready and the time is right.”