Talking tough as if he has any leverage, 82-year-old Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] Chairman Mahmoud Abbas slammed 71-year-old President Donald Trump for his Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In what amounts to the biggest overreaction imaginable, Trump exposed Abbas’ failure to get to the peace table, something he doesn’t want to face. All the past negotiations brokered by the U.S. have given Palestinians the best possible deal for a two state solution. Whether it was former President Bill Clinton’s July 11, 2000 failed talks with the late Yasser Arafat or former President Barack Obama’s May 2, 2014 failed talks with Abbas, it’s always the same excuse by Palestinians: Israel won’t stop building on Palestinians land. But the reality is that Palestinians have no sovereign land, despite occupying territory once controlled by the Ottoman Empire, the British or, as recently as 1967, Jordan.
Palestinians have created a fictional narrative sold to United Nations that Israel stole their land in 1948, when the British decided to give the British Mandate of Palestine, taken from the Ottoman Empire in 1922, to Jewish population living in the Holy Land. Until Zionists declared independence May 14, 1948 with the transfer of the British sovereign territory, the Jews had no sovereign territory, despite staking biblical claims dating backing thousands of years. Israel and local Arab inhabitants of the British territory fought a war in 1948, won by the Zionists. Within one year of declaring independence, the U.N. admitted Israel May 11, 1949, making Israel, not various Arab tribes, the official sovereign power. No matter how rejected by Arab groups collectively today called Palestinians, Israel became the official sovereign power. Two major wars later in 1967, 1973, Israel remains the sovereign power.
For the years that the late PLO founder Yasser Arafat presided over peace talks with Israel, the sticking point to a peace deal revolved around Palestinian refugees who, for whatever reason, left Israel in 1948, believing Arab armies would eventually conquer the Holy Land. Arafat worked tirelessly forming the PLO in 1964, orchestrating with Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser, and four other Arab states, the 1967 Six Day War. When the PLO, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, lost the war, Israel annexed Egypt’s Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, Jordan’s West Bank and East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights. Generations of PLO officials insist Israel return to the pre-1967 borders for any peace deal. But given today’s security concerns, Israel cannot do that, leaving Palestinians unable to dictate terms of a two-state solution. Abbas now rejects the U.S. as a peace broker.
Speaking in Ramallah to Palestine Authority [PA] officials, Abbas showed why he’s not fit to lead the PLO and PA. “The deal of the century,” proposed by Trump for Mideast peace, turned into “the slap of the century,” with Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Arafat and now Abbas insist that East Jerusalem be reserved as the capital of any future Palestinian state. “We said no to Trump, we will not accept your project,” insisted Abbas. “We will not accept for the U.S. as a mediator, after what they did,” showing the gross overreaction that blinds Abbas to working towards peace. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump tried his best to return Abbas to the peace table. Trump made clear to Abbas that all of his demands were on the table in any peace talk. Rejecting the U.S., when the U.S. pays $300 million a year in the U.N. Palestinians relief agency, makes zero sense.
Abbas thinks that if he wins backing in the U.N., he’ll get a better deal for the PLO. Unlike past administrations, Trump isn’t willing to placate the PLO without seeing concrete steps toward the peace table. When former President George W. Bush took over the peace process after Sept. 11, he refused to deal with Arafat because of his ties to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups. Aarfat and Abbas gave Hamas and other terror groups the green light to suicide bombings, car rammings and knife attacks on Israeli civilians, not to mention building terror tunnels into Israel. Abbas doesn’t like Trump because he’s calling him on the carpet. No one listening to Abbas’ diatribe believes he has any real plan to advance the Palestinian cause, other that whipping up anti-American sentiment. Trump never precluded Abbas making any of his demands if he returns to the peace table.
Palestinians can jump up and down railing against the U.S. and Israel but that won’t get them to the Promised Land. Whether Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is of no consequence to any future negotiation. Abbas doesn’t like being in a powerless position, knowing he has no sovereignty until it’s negotiated by direct talks with Israel. Abbas’ approach is to seek some U.N. declaration about a state’s borders, without any way to enforce it other that going to war against Israel. Abbas—and other Arab states—knows what happened in 1967, 1973, and knows what would happen again in any armed conflict. Abbas wants the British Mandate—including Jerusalem—returned to Arabs 70 years after the fact. Since that won’t happen and since the Palestinians never had any sovereign territory, his only path to statehood is working with Trump to negotiate the best possible deal.