RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority (PA) is going through a challenging period amid a decline in popularity for several reasons, in particular the postponement of the general election, the assassination of government critic Nizar Banat and the attack on freedoms.
As part of the effort to restore its image, the PA has again attempted to attract the attention of the world and locals, as was the case with President Mahmoud Abbas’s statement. virtual address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, giving Israel a year to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967.
A massive media campaign preceded the speech promoting it as a central address of great significance. But the speech seemed general and vague, despite the threat to Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
Abbas said: PLO will no longer recognize Israel based on pre-1967 borders if it does not withdraw from the Palestinian territories within a year and threatens to return to the UN Security Council Resolution 181 connection with the partition of Palestine, and the adoption of the one-state solution in light of the failure of the two-state solution.
Despite the deadline he set, Abbas appeared in his speech to stick to negotiations with Israel, noting that some Israeli leaders are refusing to deal with him, a jab at Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s statements, in which he said that there no reason to meet him with the Palestinian president – again rejecting the creation of a Palestinian state.
Abbas’s ultimatum doesn’t seem serious given the PA’s lack of options or vision regarding any step it might take after the end of the year’s deadline. The PA was not prepared for the consequences of the decisions it threatened to make.
In February 2019, the PA refused to receive the clearance funds from Israel, but eight months later it was turned back on his decision.
Also, in May 2020, the PA decided to end security coordination with Israel, prompting the latter to cease civilian coordination. In November 2020, the PA reversed its decision and resume safety coordination with Israel.
Abbas’s ultimatum appears as a message to the new US administration, which the PA is becoming frustrated with, especially after US President Joe Biden refused to meet with Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York. The US government also said so would not pressure Bennett’s government on the Palestinian issue.
Muhammad Jawabra, a student at Birzeit University, told Al-Monitor that Abbas’s speech at the UN was a reiteration of his earlier speeches, and that his threat to Israel is empty and futile because he lacks the resources to make a carry out such a threat. .
“The PA’s relations with Israel are intertwined and deep and he cannot make any decision to break them,” he said.
Shaza al-Haj Hassan, another student, told Al-Monitor: “President Abbas’s ultimatum to Israel is nothing but an attempt to gain time and some popularity in the Palestinian street, which is dissatisfied with the PA and its policy, especially with the recent arrests and attacks on civilians.”
Aymen Youssef, a political science professor at Arab American University, told Al-Monitor: “Abbas’ threat at the UN meeting is only superficial, and it could just be a way to vent to the media.”
He said: “It is not possible to threaten Israel in the midst of the miserable state of internal division” [in Palestine] on a political and geographical level, and amid problems related to human rights, the lack of national harmony and the inability to [political] system that can handle any challenge. These are all necessary requirements, but they don’t exist.”
In the meantime, the PA has been trying to set things in motion when it comes to its ties to Israel since Bennett took office, by intensifying meetings with political figures, Israeli ministers and parties, the most recent of which was on October 3. meeting between Abbas and a delegation of the Israeli Meretz party in Ramallah.
The delegation was led by Nitzan Horowitz, Meretz party leader and health minister, and included Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Freij and Knesset member Michal Rosen.
Abbas, along with the Meretz party delegation, invited Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to visit him in Ramallah. But the latter replied in a tweet on October 3, saying: “This isn’t going to happen. I won’t be meeting someone who denies the holocaust, charges IDF soldiers in The Hague and pays for the murders of Jews. Good night.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Abbas in Ramallah on August 30.
Before that, unofficial Palestinian-Israeli rallies were held, especially on September 23 meeting including Abbas’ adviser on religious and Islamic affairs, Mahmoud al-Habbash; presidential spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh; and member of the Fatah Central Committee and head of the Committee for Communications with Israel Society, Mohammad al-Madani. On the Israeli side, several political figures attended the meeting, most notably Ofer Pines and Yossi Beilin. Those in attendance discussed the two-state solution.
Commenting on Abbas’s intensified meetings with the Israeli side, Youssef said the president is “trying to test the waters with the Israeli government by meeting some ministers affiliated with the left or the center in Israel, in an effort to press the shaft to increase. by [Foreign Affairs Minister Yair] Lapid and Bennett. I don’t think this strategy will work due to the nature of the Israeli coalition.”
He added that, despite the vulnerability of the Israeli ruling coalition, it is consistent with a broad policy based on support for the Israeli military and settlements, and confrontation with the Palestinians.
“Parties such as Meretz and Arab Joint List will not influence the general policy of the Israeli government. The PA wants to send a message to Israelis that the current governing coalition is refusing to meet with Abbas and that the Palestinians have other options. It is also a message to the international community that Abbas is a man of peace and that he does not hesitate to meet Israelis,” Youssef concluded.