PA officials concede: ‘unprecedented slump in our diplomatic situation’

September 4, 2020 by Baruch Yedid - TPS
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A very gloomy mood prevails in Ramallah, as the Arab League refused to hold an urgent conference at the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Bahrain is signalling that it is on the way to a peace agreement with Israel, Egypt welcomes the peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia opens its skies for El Al flights.

Mahmoud Abbas

The PA is at an unprecedented diplomatic low. Arab sources report that the PA’s isolation is increasing even within the Arab arena and that the Arab League has rejected the PA’s request for an emergency conference to condemn the peace agreement between Israel and the Emirates.

Against this background, senior PLO official Saeb Erekat has called on the Arab League’s secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit to resign.

According to sources, Bahrain rejected the PA’s request to approve a clause condemning the normalization of Arab-Israeli relations and even threatened that if the PA insisted on a clause condemning normalization, they, Bahrain, would place a counter-clause in which they expressed support for normalization and the US-formulated Deal of the Century peace plan.

A source in the PA estimates that this is a clear signal that Bahrain is apparently following in the footsteps of the Emirates towards a peace agreement with Israel.

This step by Bahrain also joins the congratulatory words of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the peace agreement between Israel and the Emirates, and even more so, Saudi Arabia’s agreement on El Al flights through its airspace, en route to the Emirates.

A Palestinian source told TPS that the Palestinian Authority has recently identified cracks even in the Arab stance on the Arab Initiative diplomatic plan, which is based on the Saudi Initiative, and although the Saudis have repeatedly stated that they will not sign a peace agreement with Israel until the Palestinian problem is resolved, there is great concern about Saudi Arabia’s actions.

The PA views Bahrain’s steps and the peace agreement with the Emirates as a “siege on the Palestinian problem” and an attempt to drag Palestinians into the Deal of the Century, and Ramallah is angry at the words of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior advisor, who said that the world wants to guarantee the Palestinians a better life, but they need a capable leadership.

Hassan Asfour, editor of the Hamas-linked Amad website, called Kushner a “real estate trader” and describes the American effort as a trap similar to US policy in imposing the siege on Yasser Arafat in the early 2000s.

Fatah is pointing the finger at the “failed Rais,” PA head Mahmoud Abbas, who is even blocking criticism of Qatar, which is helping Hamas establish a minor state in the Gaza Strip, just because his family members live there and do business with the Qataris.

TPS was told that the criticism came following Abbas’ directive last week to the Fatah Revolutionary Council not to attack Qatar on its efforts to bring calm to the Gaza Strip.

“How can we condemn the normalization between Israel and the Arabs while Qatar coordinates all its moves in the Gaza Strip with Israel and even receives instructions from it?” Fatah officials, who have asked to condemn Qatar, demanded.

Sources in the PA and Fatah point the finger at Abbas and say in closed conversations that his “do not do” policy is costing the Palestinians a heavy strategic price. They say that they have repeatedly advised Abbas to accept the tax funds Israel collects on behalf of the PA while others even advised Abbas to return to the negotiating table with Israel and the US.

According to them, Abu Mazen does not take a stance and justifies his lack of actions by saying that he has not yet seen an official paper canceling Israel’s plans to annex parts of Judea and Samaria.

A Palestinian source emphasized that the PA estimates that “the threat of annexation” has been postponed for at least two to five years, and that Abbas must take advantage of this to return to the negotiation process. Reports indicate that the Egyptians are also pressuring Abu Mazen in this direction.

A Palestinian security source says that there have recently been contacts between American security forces and the Palestinians to check the PA’s willingness to return to negotiations in light of the postponement of the annexation plans. The Palestinians made it clear to the Americans that in the meantime they are investing a great deal of effort in thwarting terrorist acts launched from the PA territories and that there is also covert security coordination between them and Israel, while the Palestinian security forces refrain from any hostile contact with the IDF and even evacuate their positions during IDF activity in the PA’s territories.

For now, the leadership in Ramallah has no choice but to convene the “Summit of Terror” with the secretaries-general of all Palestinian organizations that are members of the PLO in Beirut on Thursday, along with senior representatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Abu Mazen is expected to address the conference.

On the other hand, and ahead of the conference, there is an effort by the Islamic Jihad and Hamas to bring about a joint declaration that will put the opposition to Israel, the cancellation of the agreements and the recognition of Israel, at the center of the Palestinian consensus.

In this context, it should be noted that recently Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah has greatly increased his meetings and consultations with the Iranians and especially with Ismail Kaani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as well as with Ziyad Nahala, the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad.

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