The Palestinian Authority reportedly plans to give White House envoy Jared Kushner an ultimatum when he visits Ramallah on Thursday: deliver Israeli concessions in 45 days, or we blow up the peace process and go to the UN.
The ultimatum marks a stunning reversal in negotiating postures since Kushner officially took up the task of negotiating a deal between Israelis and Palestinians on behalf of his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
At the start of the administration, the Palestinian leadership was so shocked by Trump’s election victory that they did not even know whom to call in the White House. They were fearful of the incoming administration, which was stacked with pro-Israel advisers and appointees, and which was determined to upset the Beltway consensus about everything, especially the Middle East. Trump, and Kushner, had virtually unprecedented negotiating leverage.
That leverage was enhanced when Trump set aside the two-state solution, accepted existing settlements in Judea and Samaria, and made a regional alliance with Arab states a higher priority than satisfying the Palestinians.
Had the U.S. embassy in Israel been moved to Jerusalem right away, that would have cemented Israel’s sovereignty in its historic capital, and forced the Palestinians to offer concessions to avoid losing any foothold in the city altogether.
An embassy move may still happen. But in the interim, it was delayed to appease the Palestinians, who offered nothing in return for Trump’s delay except vows to continue using U.S. taxpayer money to pay terrorists and their families.
Trump prioritized the goal of a peace agreement, as every administration before him had done, signaling to the Palestinians that they could once again make demands in exchange for their mere participation in peace talks.
The new tone was signaled by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who attacked the Trump administration earlier this week, ahead of Kushner’s visit. He is also clearly emboldened by the American media’s treatment of the president, and the pervasive belief among Democrats and some Republicans that Trump will not be in office long.
A report in Al-Monitor details the ultimatum that Abbas plans to present to Kushner:
A senior Palestinian source who spoke on condition of anonymity said a decision had been reached after lengthy negotiations at top PA levels, including consultations with its team of Trump experts, to present Kushner and Greenblatt with a clear ultimatum: Unless progress is made within 45 days on launching talks with the Israelis, the Palestinians will consider themselves no longer committed to the US channel and will turn to an alternative plan on which they have been working for the past two years.
The Trump administration had hoped to use pressure from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni states to force the Palestinians to make concessions. But Kushner will not be able to draw on those allies, either — not after the Trump administration cut aid to Egypt over human rights concerns. Earlier, the administration had put national security objectives first. No longer — and Kushner knows it, after being snubbed by Egypt’s foreign minister on Wednesday.
Now, barely half a year after Kushner began his Sisyphean task, the Palestinians are dictating demands to the U.S. Meanwhile, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — whose support for Israel is in doubt, and who reportedly nixed the idea of Netanyahu accompanying Trump to the Western Wall — is exerting more control over Kushner’s mission. Trump’s “biggest deal of them all” is far from reach — and a chance to secure Israel’s future is being lost.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.