President Trump’s soon-to-be released “ultimate deal” – aimed at resolving the 100 years old Arab-Jewish conflict – seems set to see Trump not offering the PLO a seat at the negotiating table with Israel.
This possibility follows two extraordinary outbursts by PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas:
· attacking Hamas – ending any prospects of reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas and
· publicly disparaging US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – whom Abbas called “son of a dog”The wheels fell off the much-publicised Hamas-PLO reconciliation at a PLO leadership meeting in Ramallah on 19 March when Abbas accused Hamas of being responsible for the assassination attempt against Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and chief of intelligence Majid Faraj in Gaza the previous week.
Abbas threatened retaliatory action against Hamas which was undisguised and unequivocal:
"I have decided to take national, legal and financial measures to protect out national project. We never thought of punishing any Palestinian citizen, not in the West Bank or Gaza. But we have to say where the wrong is and where the crime is. This situation is not acceptable."Abbas accused Hamas of sabotaging all efforts for reconciliation – saying that either the Palestinian government takes full charge of everything in Gaza or the de facto authority (Hamas) remains fully responsible for it:
"We did all we can to make the reconciliation a success, but, unfortunately, the result for empowering the government was zero. We have been working hard for six months and got nothing, not the government, not the crossings, not security, nothing. It's all hypocrisy. They don't want reconciliation … There aren't two sides to the division, rather only one side that is consolidating it and enforces an illegal de facto situation"Abbas said he would not wait for Hamas' investigation into the assassination attempt "because we know that they, Hamas, are behind it" – adding that assassinations are not new to Hamas whose history is full of similar acts warning that the attempt will not go without reaction.
This latest bout of in-fighting between the PLO and Hamas highlights the bitter internecine conflict they have engaged in since 2007 for control of the hearts and minds of the Gazan and West Bank Arab populations. It underscores the continuing refusal of Hamas and the PLO to give these long-suffering populations any say in their own future for the last 11 years. It haunts the utter inability of the PLO to conclude a peace agreement with Israel after negotiations spanning the last 25 years.
Free and fair elections in Gaza and the West Bank are long overdue. Yet not a word is heard from the United Nations or the European Union calling on both Hamas and the PLO to replace bullets with ballots.
America designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation in 1987 – so believing that the PLO can play any constructive role in resolving Gaza’s future without succeeding in violently overthrowing Hamas is illusory.
Trump’s recently-assembled coalition comprising Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman offers far better hope that Trump’s proposals might be ultimately translated into a binding Arab-Jewish peace treaty – with Arab recognition finally of the Jewish State 70 years after its establishment.
Trump will not take kindly to Abbas’s personal denigration of Ambassador Friedman. Trump should not be surprised if he, UN Ambassador Haley and Trump’s Middle East envoys Kushner and Greenblatt are soon on the receiving end of similar epithets.
Trump is taking the high road to possible peace – leaving Abbas, the PLO and Hamas wallowing on the murky low road engaging in further conflict and becoming politically irrelevant.
[Author’s note: The cartoon appearing with this article is the work of Yaakov Kirschen aka "Dry Bones" – one of Israel's foremost political and social commentators – whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades.]