Abbas in France trying to replace the Americans as mediators

The Palestinians favor the EU as a broker because of its strong support for the two-state solution and its ability to pressure Israel more than the US can, expert says.

 Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: ALEX BRANDON/POOL/REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority is planning a diplomatic blitz in which it will reach out to global powers, aside from the US, to try to convince them to help revive the stalled negotiations with Israel.

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One of those targeted is France, where PA President Mahmoud Abbas is currently visiting President Emmanuel Macron.

Abbas is hoping that the EU will take on a bigger, more significant role in shaking things up between the Israelis and Palestinians. The last time the two sides met face to face was back in April 2014, when John Kerry was still secretary of state.

The meeting between Macron and Abbas comes a week after the French president received the Israeli caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, when Macron stressed that “there is no alternative to resuming the political dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” stressing at the same time “his readiness to contribute to the resumption” of the peace process and to “mobilizing the international community in its favor.”

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron)French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron)

However, senior Israeli officials immediately indicated that they do not support an immediate relaunch of the peace process.

The Abbas-Macron talks also come five days after Abbas met with US President Joe Biden in Bethlehem, in the West Bank. During the visit, the American leader reiterated his support for a two-state solution.

“There must be a political horizon that the Palestinian people can actually see or at least feel. We cannot allow the hopelessness to steal away the future.”

US President Joe Biden

“There must be a political horizon that the Palestinian people can actually see or at least feel. We cannot allow the hopelessness to steal away the future,” President Biden said.

The US president had made his long-standing position known last Friday in a joint press conference with Abbas.

“I am still committed to the goal of achieving the two-state solution on the 1967 borders … but I think it is currently unattainable,” he said, adding that the time is not ripe to do anything about that.

“The Palestinians are convinced now that the Americans aren’t interested in pushing forward with efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together,” said one Palestinian official who asked not to be named.

A statement from the Elysée Palace confirmed that Macron and Abbas will discuss “possible ways to resume negotiations with the aim of achieving a just and lasting peace” in the Middle East.

The two men had spoken on June 4, when Macron expressed his “concern” about the “deteriorating situation” in the Palestinian territories, with the peace process faltering since 2014.

A divided Palestinian cause

Mkhaimar Abusada, a Gaza-based political analyst, told The Media Line that the Palestinian cause is weakened by the internal split between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“We can’t talk about a unified Palestinian attitude toward the American administration,” says Abusada. “Abbas has no other choice but to depend on the Americans to revive the stalled peace talks with Israel and to keep pushing for the two-state solution.

“But on the other hand, you have the other Palestinian position which is represented by Hamas, and other factions, who very much don’t trust the US administration and are convinced that the US is a partner with the Israeli occupation and has adopted all of Israel policies such as on settlement expansion, and annexation,” Abusada said.

Abbas is “distraught” and “fed up” with the US, according to sources in Ramallah, to the point that he is now seeking European help to jump-start the frozen-in-time peace process, and he wants to sideline Washington on this issue.

Ahmad Rafiq Awad, president of the Center for Jerusalem Studies at Al-Quds University, told The Media Line that the Palestinians are “very disappointed” with President Biden, who “saw in us people who only wanted economic easements.

“He did not see an occupied people yearning for independence and freedom,” says Awad.

“Palestinians don’t trust that the US administration is sincere about the two-state solution, and they just give lip service to the Palestinians,” he says. “He hasn’t done anything to implement the two-state solution, he hasn’t done anything to put pressure on Israel.”

Abusada adds, “Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership hasn’t looked into other options, like implementing [Palestinian] Central Council resolutions, or [Palestinian] National Council resolutions. Unfortunately, the PA still believes the US can revive the stalled negotiations with Israel.”

Both councils are organs of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

A Palestinian source told The Media Line in May that the PA was so furious with the US administration over what it described as a “lack of seriousness” in its approach to the Palestinian issue that Abbas threatened to withdraw recognition of Israel and readiness to end the security coordination.

The source says the efforts to include others to help resurrect the peace negotiations is the right move for the 86-year-old president, but he doubts that it will yield anything.

“Israel doesn’t trust anybody else to be a broker between the Palestinian and them, and the Israelis very much have reservations against any European intervention. As far as the Israelis are concerned, this job is reserved for the Americans only.”

Despite announcing that President Biden’s statement last Friday after meeting with Abbas was positive, insiders say the PA president was disappointed in what the American leader didn’t say.

Palestinian leaders are frustrated with President Biden, believing he has let them down by not fulfilling promises he made during his campaign.

Then-candidate Biden, who defeated former President Donald Trump in 2020, pledged to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem once elected. The US administration has yet to act on the promise despite repeatedly saying that it remains committed to doing so.

The Palestinians have also been demanding that the White House reopen the shuttered Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington and remove the organization from the US terrorist list.

“Abbas must be disappointed and frustrated. Biden has been in office for more than a year and a half now, he hasn’t made good on his promises to the Palestinians. For more than a year and a half he promised to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem,” says Abusada.

None of this has happened.

During his visit, President Biden also made a quick stop at Augusta Victoria Hospital, where he announced $100 million in aid to a network of Palestinian hospitals located throughout east Jerusalem. He added that his administration will provide an additional $200 million for the United Nations agency serving Palestinian refugees.

“The only serious role the Americans have been playing since the inception of the PA [in 1994] is supporting the Palestinians financially, but they have failed in getting involved between the Palestinians and Israelis,” says Abusada.

Palestinians are frustrated by the American reluctance toward their cause. Awad argues that this disappointment and frustration is forcing the Palestinians to look elsewhere in an attempt to get things moving.

“What makes the European Union acceptable to the Palestinians as a mediator is its strong support for the two-state solution and its ability to pressure Israel more than Americans can. But Europe is now fully involved and preoccupied with the Ukraine war and has other things that keep it busy. That is why I don’t see how the timing is right for Europe to intervene.”

Abbas’s efforts in Paris are lauded by some Palestinians, who don’t view the US as an honest broker. However, few believe it will be fruitful.

Those hoping for interventions other than from the American are doomed to disappointment, says Abusada.