World View: Palestinian Leader Abbas Expected to Deliver Ultimatum to Israel at UN

AP Photo
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Palestinian leader Abbas to ‘drop bombshell’ in UN speech Wednesday
  • Abbas expected to deliver ultimatum to Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel
  • Abbas’s resignation would trigger major Mideast changes

Palestinian leader Abbas to ‘drop bombshell’ in UN speech Wednesday

Mahmoud Abbas giving a speech in 2014 (EPA)
Mahmoud Abbas giving a speech in 2014 (EPA)

Rumors and speculation have been raging for the last couple of weeks, ever since Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas promised on September 17 to “drop a bombshell” at the end of the speech he’ll be giving to the United Nations on Wednesday.

The initial speculation was that Abbas would repudiate the terms of the 1994 Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, on the grounds that Israel has not fully complied with the agreement, and that the agreement has not accomplished anything of value, since the Israelis continue to build settlements at will, peace negotiations have gone nowhere.

The Oslo agreement specifies that the PA is responsible for governing and policing the West Bank. A repudiation of that agreement would dismantle the PA and would be seen as a blow to Israel, which would then be required to govern and police the West Bank by itself, which would certainly result in frequent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians.

However, Israeli intelligence sources say that Abbas’s associates are vehemently opposed to dismantling the Palestinian Authority. Dismantling the PA would also mean disconnecting the Palestinians from the European Commission Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on assistance to the Palestinians, which funnels over $1 billion annually to the PA’s bank account, paying the salaries of over 160,000 Palestinian employees. Israel National News (17-Sept) and Al Monitor

Abbas expected to deliver ultimatum to Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel

Nonetheless, some reports indicate that Abbas will deliver an ultimatum to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday: Freeze the settlement building and recognize the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiation, or the PA will hand back to Israel the responsibility for security in the whole of the West Bank.

On September 20, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas was quoted as saying,

I’m already old. If in two or three months’ time I see that there’s no hope, I won’t stay in the job.

It is possible that part of Wednesday’s “bombshell” announcement will be Abbas’s own resignation.

Abbas has threatened to resign several times in the past. In 2011, it seemed resignation was almost certain, because of the repeated failure of the “peace process,” but then his personal popularity began to increase and he started “acting like a young man again,” so he did not resign after all.

Because year after year has gone by with no progress in negotiations with Israel, Abbas may feel that he has nothing left to lose if he resigns and, at the same time, delivers an ultimatum to Israel.

Although Abbas has threatened to resign in the past, but has changed his mind each time, it is possible that this time it may actually happen, for two good reasons.

First, he was born in 1935 and is now 80 years old, and running the PA cannot be easy at his age, especially since he is not accomplishing anything.

Second, his personal popularity has been plummeting, according to a poll conducted by Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. The main findings of the poll, conducted between September 17-19 in Gaza and the West Bank, found:

  • Two-thirds of the public demand the resignation of president Abbas.
  • Two thirds of the public support Hamas-Israel indirect negotiations, although a majority believes that these negotiations will not succeed.
  • For the first time, a majority now demands the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority.

The poll found that anger at the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world has been growing due to various factors:

  • The belief that the PA prevents demonstrations against the Israeli occupation waged in solidarity with Jerusalem and al Aqsa Mosque
  • The belief that the PA is failing to protect Palestinians against settlers’ terrorism in the aftermath of the settlers’ burning of the Dawabsha family in the village of Duma.
  • The PA manipulation of the rules to hold a quick session for the Palestine National Council including the submission of fake resignations from the PLO Executive Committee.
  • Political and financial corruption in the PA, shown by the recent leak of documents showing cases of financial corruption within the PA.
  • The overwhelming majority belief that Arabs no longer care about the fate of the Palestinians, that Palestine is no longer the primary cause of the Arabs, and that Arab countries have in fact entered an alliance with Israel against Iran despite the continued Israeli occupation.

So with Palestinian attitudes turning sharply against Abbas, the Palestinian government, and the Arabs, a “bombshell” announcement that combines an ultimatum with resignation is considered a possibility. Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and Al Monitor

Abbas’s resignation would trigger major Mideast changes

The Palestinian belief that the Arab world is turning against them refers to what I have written about several times, that the 2014 Gaza war brought about a major Mideast realignment, splitting the Gulf nations apart. When the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas began last summer, Egypt supported Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and turned against Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran and Turkey supported Hamas. This created a de facto realignment of the Mideast, with Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus Iran.

Since the Gaza war, there have been other factors: the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), the war in Yemen, the rise of Iran with the nuclear accords, and now Russia’s military deployment into Syria. Whereas the “Palestinian problem” used to be the major focus of politicians around the world, today it rarely even appears in the headlines, with everything else going on. As a result, the Palestinians feel abandoned not only by the Arabs, but also by the international community.

So now, into this chaotic context, comes the possibility that Abbas may resign. As I wrote for the first time in 2003, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Israel-Palestinian “peace process” can never succeed because Arabs and Israelis will be refighting the genocidal 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that followed the partitioning of Palestinian and the creation of the state of Israel.

In 2003, I wrote that it is the survivors of the 1948 war that have prevented a war that major from occurring again. In 2003, Yassir Arafat and Ariel Sharon, both survivors of the 1948 war, were the respective leaders of the Palestinians and Israelis. Today, both of them are gone, and in fact, almost every other survivor is also gone, with Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas being the sole major leader with personal memories of the horrors of the 1948 war.

The resignation of Abbas would bring on a major leadership crisis among the Palestinians. Some polls indicate that his most likely replacement would be Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, a Gen-Xer born in 1963. This generational shift in leadership would bring major changes to the Palestinian territories, and a great deal more conflict with Israel. Al Monitor (22-Sept) and Reuters

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Gaza, West Bank, Oslo peace accords, Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, European Commission Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, Khalil Shikaki, Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Ismail Haniyeh
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