Pollak: The Saudi Offer Palestinians Can’t — or Shouldn’t — Refuse

Saudi Palestinian (Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images

Will Palestinian leaders accept the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan when it is released in several weeks’ time?

Though the details of the plan have yet to be released, the prospects of Palestinian acceptance are dim. Earlier this week, a Palestinian official told the United Nations: “This is not a peace plan but rather conditions for surrender.”

Then again, it is not clear any plan would be acceptable, on its face, to Palestinian leaders, who have rejected generous terms Israel offered in the past.

But there is a reason this time could be different.

The one factor that could set this Middle East peace plan apart from all of the others will be the likely involvement of Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia. If the Saudis make the Palestinians a bold offer of economic and diplomatic support, but also make clear the offer is a once-off, take-it-or-leave it proposition, the Palestinian leadership may find it difficult to walk away from the table.

There are reasons to believe the Saudis will, in fact, make such an offer. The kingdom would like to put the Palestinian issue to rest, especially in the face of the emerging threat of Iran.

Moreover, the Saudis owe President Donald Trump a favor. Trump resisted calls from Congress to cut ties with the kingdom after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As I suggested last November, the price could be that Saudi Arabia backs the peace plan and bankrolls the Palestinians.

In the past, Palestinians have walked away from peace negotiations while pocketing whatever concessions were on the table. That will be harder this time — first of all, because the concessions would not be coming from the U.S. or Israel, but the Saudis.

And lest the Palestinians think it better to wait out the 2020 election in the hope that a Democrat comes to power, the Democrats’ antipathy toward Saudi Arabia suggests the Saudis would not renew their offer in that case.

The Palestinians may also, for once, be under time pressure. The conventional wisdom in the West is that Israel must race against the clock to make a deal, because of faulty demographic numbers that suggest the total Arab population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River will soon overtake the total Jewish population. But without Gaza, the numbers look very different. And without a successor to 83-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, there is no guarantee that the Palestinian national project will last beyond his lifetime, other than as an anti-Israel cult.

True, “[t]he Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” as Israeli diplomat Abba Eban famously observed. But a rare alignment of Arab states, carefully cultivated by the Trump administration, could offer hope. And if not, at least the world will walk away from the “peace process” without regret: nothing more could have been done.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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