Since the unveiling of Trump’s plan for Mideast peace last week, Abbas has been facing increased criticism from Palestinians for failing to carry out his recurring threats.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
It’s hard to find Palestinians who take seriously Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s latest threat to cut all relations with Israel and the US, including security ties. In the past three years, Abbas has made similar threats on several occasions.While he has severed all political contacts with the US administration and the Israeli government, Abbas has refrained from halting security coordination between his security forces and the IDF in the West Bank. He has also retained such cooperation with the CIA, despite his boycott of US President Donald Trump’s administration.In response to Abbas’s speech at Saturday’s emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, where he said he would severe security relations with Israel and the US, Palestinians said the threat was merely intended for “internal consumption.”They pointed out that PLO and Fatah bodies had previously called for halting security coordination with Israel – only to be ignored by Abbas.“Abbas knows that without the security coordination, he won’t be able to leave Ramallah,” remarked a Palestinian political analyst. “In 2016, President Abbas himself told a group of Israelis that he considers security coordination with Israel as sacred. I don’t think he has changed his mind.”In his speech, Abbas seemed to boast of the Palestinians’ cooperation with the CIA. He implied that although he has been boycotting the Trump administration, he is proud that the Palestinians are partners (with the CIA) in the war against global terrorism.Abbas, in other words, is saying that he draws a distinction between the Trump administration and the CIA, which has been helping his security forces in the West Bank.Abbas’s threat is obviously aimed at appeasing his Palestinian critics and political rivals.Since the unveiling of Trump’s plan for Mideast peace last week, Abbas has been facing increased criticism from Palestinians for failing to carry out his recurring threats to take far-reaching measures in response to Israeli and US policies and decisions.In his speech, Abbas also rejected calls by various Palestinian factions to launch a new intifada against Israel. Instead, he stressed that he remains committed to a peaceful and nonviolent protest, adding: “We will not carry rifles.”Abbas understands that the Palestinians in the West Bank are not all too enthusiastic to engage in another major confrontation with Israel, particularly after the heavy price they paid during the Second Intifada.Buoyed by the Arab League’s rejection of the Trump plan, Abbas has made it clear that his strategy for “thwarting” Trump’s plan will be solely based on waging a diplomatic offensive to rally additional support for Palestinian opposition to the US administration’s “peace vision.”In the coming days, he is planning to seek the backing of the 57 state members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, African countries and the United Nations Security Council.His goal is to isolate Israel and the Trump administration in the international arena and force them to accept a new mechanism for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – one that prevents the US from having a monopoly over the peace process.Abbas is hoping that his diplomatic drive would convince the international community to endorse his proposal for holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East on the basis of UN resolutions, and not the Trump plan.Abbas, meanwhile, is not pinning high hopes on the Arab countries, some of which have made it clear that they see the Trump plan as a basis for future negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.He is well aware that the Arab League foreign ministers’ communique, issued after the emergency meeting, is nothing but lip service Arabs have long been paying to the Palestinians.Palestinians, on the other hand, are also aware that Abbas’s threat to cut all ties with Israel and the US is nothing but lip service he has regularly been paying to his people.Palestinian security officials said on Saturday night that they have not received orders from anyone to halt security contacts with their Israeli counterparts.The 84-year-old Abbas, who recently entered his 16th year of his four-year term in office, is caught between a rock and a hard place.Cutting off security cooperation with Israel and the US would undermine his own security forces, thus destabilizing his rule over the PA-controlled areas of the West Bank. On the other hand, failure to halt the security cooperation or renounce the Oslo Accords would further undermine his credibility among Palestinians.