ANALYSIS: What's Behind the New US Policy Toward the Palestinians?

Thursday, September 13, 2018 |  Yochanan Visser

Twenty-five years ago today the first "Oslo Accord" was signed on the lawn of the White House in Washington, DC by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

The agreement aimed to create a timetable for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs but was sabotaged by Arafat, who immediately after setting up office in Ramallah started to prepare for what later became known as the Second Intifada, and by Hamas which waged a relentless suicide bombing campaign in Israel.

The Second Intifada or the Oslo War, as it was dubbed by rightwing politicians and commentators, killed not only roughly 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinian Arabs but also the dream that peace could be achieved in the now 100-year-old conflict.

Though the United States continued to launch new peace processes it became increasingly clear that the Palestinian leadership was unwilling to make what was called ‘painful concessions’. 

After Arafat died his predecessor Mahmoud Abbas stubbornly refused to drop the maximalist demands such as the non-existing ‘right of return’ and the renewed division of Jerusalem.

The international community, however, ignored Palestinian intransigence and instead blamed the growing Israeli ‘settlement’ enterprise in Judea and Samaria for the failure of each effort to solve the conflict while pressuring Israel into making irresponsible steps that could have created a ‘Trojan Horse’ in Israel’s biblical heartland.

Critic’s of Israel’s policies in Judea and Samaria claimed that the growth of Israeli communities and towns, in what was called Area C under the Oslo  Accords, prevented the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. 

A simple look at the map, however, would have learned them that these so-called ‘settlements’ make up only two percent of the landmass in the ‘West-Bank’ and in no way prevent the creation of such a state.

The attitudes of the international community effectively caused the prolongation of the conflict and gave the Palestinian leadership a free pass to violate its obligations under the Oslo accords.

One of these obligations was that the Palestinian leadership would not unilaterally seek international recognition for a Palestinian state but instead would have to negotiate with Israel about the so-called two-state solution.

A policy change in 2009 by the Palestinian Authority (PA), however, effectively ended the negotiation track with Israel and caused the termination of the Oslo peace process. 

The revised policy was based on a report by the Palestinian Strategy Group which called for the introduction of “intelligent resistance”- meaning law fare, boycott campaigns and propaganda – as a means of continuing the struggle against Israel.

The PA succeeded to obtain membership of important international organizations such as UNESCO despite not being a state and used these memberships to promote the Palestinian narrative of victimhood which is based on countless lies.

The strategy worked until the Trump Administration came into office.

The US government started to peel off these lies “like an onion” as Yisrael Katz, Israel’s Intelligence Minister, put it on Wednesday.

Katz reacted to Trump’s decision to close the offices of the PLO in the United States.

"This decision joins the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the decision to stop funding UNRWA, which is an organization that perpetuates the refugees' pretend right of return," Katz stated.

"All these steps reach the roots of the conflict and tell Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that he cannot continue his double-talk," the veteran Israeli politician added.

“Trump is peeling the Palestinian lie like an onion - layer by layer. Their educational system as well teaches their children that 'big Palestine' is from the Jordan River to the sea. Trump comes and says: 'If you want to sit and negotiate, do it from a realistic place - Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and there is no right of return,’” Katz said.

He added that Mahmoud Abbas’ response to this and other measures by the Trump Administration shows exactly what the Palestinian leader thinks of these issues.

Israel’s Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, concurred and said that Trump simply restored the rules of the game and forced the Palestinian leadership to pay a price for its policy change vis a vis Israel.

“With the closing of the PLO office in Washington, the American administration is not changing the rules of the game, but simply restoring them after years of neglect,” according to Oren. 

“It should be noted that in contrast to previous administrations that would reward the Palestinians for abandoning the negotiations with Israel, President Trump is forcing the Palestinians to pay a price,” the deputy PM argued.

The PLO offices in the U.S. were mainly used to spread Palestinian propaganda and by closing them Trump took another step to strip the Palestinian Arabs of their deceptive narrative.

The Palestinian Arabs realize this and even openly admit that this is making them angry and not the funding cuts which the Trump Administration recently announced.

The halt of US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the reduction of direct US financial aid to the PA are also meant to force the Palestinian leadership into a more realistic approach towards peace negotiations with Israel but the PA indicates it will not give in to the pressure.

The PA has now embarked on a political and diplomatic campaign to enlist support from European and Arab states against the US government but at the same time indicates it has not the tools to cause the United States to reverse its new policy.

“Our toolbox is empty, we have to keep our heads down and wait (until a new US administration comes into office),” sources in the Palestinian Authority told the Algemeiner.

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