The Israel-Palestine peace plan presented by US President Donald Trump early last week has been met with expected and massive resistance from Palestinians on all levels. Now Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is responding by threatening to cease all remaining relations with the United States and Israel.
Why Is Abbas Pushing Back So Strongly Against The Deal?
At an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo following the deal’s unveiling, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority was planning to “break all ties” with Israel and the United States, including on security-related issues. Specifically, Abbas sent a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US government to inform them that:
“There will be no relationship with Israel and the United States, including security, given that previous agreements have not been respected.” He further stated that the United States’ Middle East plan was a “violation of the Oslo Accords,” which were signed with Israel in the 1990s. Israel, as the “occupying power” of the Palestinian Territories, needed to take responsibility,” Abbas’ letter continued.
Abbas’ reaction is not a surprise, however. Nor is the threat of ceasing all relations. The last time it occurred was only three years ago, in December 2019, when President Trump announced that the US embassy would be relocated to Jerusalem. Abbas, moreover, repeatedly threatened to cease security coordination with Israel but has yet to implement any of these past threats. In particular, security cooperation with Israel has continued on a de facto basis.
‘The Trash Can Of History’
Immediately after Trump’s Middle East plan was published, Abbas announced that it would “land in the trash can of history,” while the Islamist terrorist group Hamas in Gaza immediately described the plan as nonsense and announced that it would fight it “by all means”—which, in Hamas’ case is a euphemism for revolting acts of terrorism.
In the run-up to the Cairo meeting, Abbas had announced that the meeting would “request support and backing for the Palestinian position by the Arab League.” He was not inaccurate. According to the Arab League’s Secretary-General Aboul Gheit, the peace plan would lead to a scenario in which there are two different classes of citizens, with the Palestinians being second class citizens. Moreover, the US government’s proposal would bring neither stability nor peace, but would only sow conflict and suffering for another 100 years, according to Gheit. Accordingly, the Arab League rejected the plan and called it “unfair” in a later released statement, which concluded that the peace plan did not meet the Palestinians’ “minimum rights and expectations.”
Trump: Plan Should Enable A ‘Realistic Two-State Solution’
Trump announced his long-awaited plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Washington in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu the previous Tuesday. According to Trump, the plan should enable a “realistic two-state solution,” with Jerusalem being the “undivided capital” of Israel.
According to the plan, the Palestinians would be given the opportunity to establish their own state in parts of the West Bank, the capital of which would be Abu Dis, a suburb of East Jerusalem.
Palestinians Keep Rejecting Peace
The rejection by the Palestinians is not a surprise. In the previous twenty years alone, the Palestinians had rejected three peace deals and offered to establish their own state eventually. In the summer of 2000, Bill Clinton held intensive peace talks between then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, which culminated in a comprehensive peace plan: the Clinton Parameters. Despite significant concessions the plan required from Israel, Barak accepted Clinton’s proposal. Palestinian leader Arafat, on the other hand, rejected the plan and immediately initiated a new terror campaign against Israeli civilians upon his return, known as the Second intifada.
Israeli PM Olmert’s Generous 2008 Peace Offer
In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Abbas after extensive talks and presented a comprehensive peace plan. Olmert’s plan would have attached the large Israeli settlements to Israel, in return providing Palestinians the same Israeli territory and dividing Jerusalem. Olmert even stated that he had reached a preliminary agreement with Abbas on refugees and the Palestinian “right of return.” In summary: Olmert offered an almost complete withdrawal from the West Bank and the abandonment of Israeli control over Jerusalem’s old city. Abbas and the Palestinians nevertheless refused.
Netanyahu Tried in 2010, Palestinians Turn Down Peace Again
In early 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a ten-month moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank after publicly declaring his support for a future Palestinian state. However, Netanyahu insisted the Palestinians themselves would have to play their part to earn this Israeli goodwill gesture. The Palestinians immediately rejected the approach on the grounds that Netanyahu’s plan was “insufficient.”
Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority resumed nine months later. However, a coalition of 13 Palestinian factions launched a campaign of attacks against Israeli civilians—including a series of pass-by shots and rocket attacks on Israeli cities—to stop the ongoing negotiations. It worked, and the talks ceased at the end of September 2010. Besides, the partial moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank expired, and Netanyahu refused to extend it unless the Palestinians recognized Israel as a Jewish state. Once again, the Palestinians refused to make any efforts to continue the talks or accept the gesture of goodwill.
A Spiral of Violence
The question of whether the Palestinian leadership seeks peace has become even more relevant with the rejection of the Trump peace plan. To date, there have been no initiatives by the Palestinians nor serious visions for peace. Israel, which, by all means, has the right to defend itself, has arguably made mistakes as well. For example, it has been argued that the far superior military force Israel possesses has been utilized excessively at times and subsequently caused significant collateral damages including civilian casualties—an advertisement for Hamas and its message to the Palestinian people.
Nonetheless, a Palestinian state without a new approach, any negotiations or compromises on their part will de facto never exist—which is comforting.