PALESTINIAN REACTIONS TO THE TRUMP PLAN
the Palestinian Authority severed all contacts with Washington in 2017 following
the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,
President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly declared that he will not accept any
peace plan presented by the White House. PA officials repeated this position in
recent days following word that the plan would finally be announced in one form
or another amid
visits by Israeli leaders. Since this will almost certainly remain their
stance once the plan is released, how might the PA operationalize their position
at home and internationally?
the near term, the aim of Palestinian diplomacy will be to isolate the American
position and paint the Trump peace plan as a bilateral U.S.-Israeli move that is
opposed by the bulk of the international community. In addition to thwarting the
plan’s immediate momentum, the PA also hopes to prevent its contents from
becoming a new frame of reference that outlives Trump’s presidency. In
practice, this likely means pursuing a threefold strategy following the same
pattern used after the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem.
first target of Palestinian diplomacy will be the Arab world. An Arab reaction
that falls short of outright rejection of the plan would be seen as a victory
for the Trump administration, even if no Arab leaders actually endorse it. In
all likelihood, then, the PA will seek to define the narrative from the outset
by formally rejecting the plan as soon as it is announced. By doing so,
Palestinian officials would hope to preempt their regional counterparts from
expressing a willingness to engage with any of the plan’s proposals.
this vein, the PA will also likely call for an emergency Arab League meeting in
order to build on previous statements to the effect that Arab leaders will not
accept anything the Palestinians do not accept. Although this would not have
much practical impact, it would lock Arab governments into formally rejecting
the plan or at least supporting the Palestinian position. In particular, the PA
will be keen on securing Egyptian, Jordanian, and Saudi support. Palestinian
officials are acutely sensitive to Riyadh’s position and will put considerable
effort into getting a clear Saudi statement, including direct outreach from
President Abbas to King Salman.
PA’s second diplomatic target will be Europe. Palestinian officials will
likely ask the Europeans to reaffirm their commitment to a two-state solution,
reject any unilateral Israeli annexations in Palestinian territory, and
implicitly reject key components of the Trump plan. In parallel, they will also
engage European states individually in the hope of gaining bilateral recognition
of Palestinian statehood. These entreaties will focus on states whose
parliaments have previously supported recognition, even in a nonbinding fashion;
moreover, they will intensify if Israel moves ahead with annexing the Jordan
Valley or parts of the West Bank.
PA leaders will aim to mobilize the UN. If they are confident of winning support
from the other fourteen Security Council members besides the United States, they
will likely put forth a resolution that reaffirms traditional parameters for
resolving the conflict—namely, a two-state solution along the 1967 lines, with
a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Although a U.S. veto is a foregone
conclusion, swaying the rest of the council could further the Palestinian
objective of isolating Washington on these issues. The PA seems sure of Russian
and Chinese support in this regard, but less certain about Britain and France.
It is unclear how flexible the Palestinians would be in drafting the terms of
such a resolution, as their history on this matter is checkered.
PA is also likely to seek a UN General Assembly resolution. Since overall
adoption of such a measure is guaranteed, Palestinian efforts will probably
focus on ensuring that key states in Europe and elsewhere back it. Further, the
PA will try to get a multitude of relevant resolutions passed in various
specialized agencies, contradicting the Trump plan in substantive ways even if
not necessarily referencing it.
reactions will be the most important variable in determining the effectiveness
of the PA’s strategy. Substantively, the Arab states need the plan to have two
key components if they are to engage with it in even minimal fashion: (1) a
Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem with robust Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim
control over Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif (the
actual meaning and logistics of this control would have to be worked out later),
and (2) a credible promise of a Palestinian state.
the PA will try to preempt other actors from engaging with the plan by defining
a robust oppositional narrative from the outset. Once the official Palestinian
position is made public, Arab states are unlikely to contradict
it—traditionally, they have preferred to influence the PA in private, and have
been more effective (up to a point) in that mode rather than trying to wield
public pressure. Unless Washington or other actors consult with Arab officials
before releasing the plan and brief them about its contents in a meaningful,
high-level fashion, the PA’s strategy of immediate rejection will have a good
chance of achieving its objectives.
ON THE GROUND
this flurry of diplomatic activity, the mere announcement of the U.S. plan is
unlikely to prompt the PA to undertake any drastic action on the ground. PA
officials may allow some protests to occur away from Israeli friction points,
but they have little interest in instability at this point. Of course,
developments can occur outside their control. Palestinian factions have
unanimously rejected the plan, and some—especially Hamas—do have an interest
in destabilizing the West Bank. Moreover, the public has already formed a
negative view of the plan following years of regional media speculation casting
it in a very negative light. Yet West Bank residents have shown little appetite
for mass mobilization around diplomatic issues in recent years, and the PA has
proven capable of controlling the ground in analogous situations.
however, Israel proceeds with annexing any territory after the White House
announces its plan, the PA or the Palestinian public will almost certainly take
more drastic steps. Most significantly, PA officials would look to sever
security cooperation with Israel, which is already deeply unpopular with the
Palestinian public and has been threatened with cancelation many times during
periods of high tension. Given the crucial role this cooperation plays in
maintaining stability, such a breakdown could lead to a highly volatile
al-Omari is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.