The disconnect between the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas and the US administration of President Donald Trump has widened still further, Israeli TV reports claimed Sunday night.
Abbas is said to have told all PA officials that Trump is “a lost cause” and to have ordered the PA to sever all contacts with US diplomatic officials, including those of the US consulate in East Jerusalem responsible for Palestinian affairs.
The US administration, for its part, was reported to have indicated that it is seeking a Palestinian interlocutor other than Abbas with whom it might be able to do business.
The unconfirmed reports, on Israel’s two main television stations, follow Abbas’ declared refusal to have anything further to do with Trump’s peace team in the wake of the American president’s December 6 declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing the intended relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
According to Hadashot TV news, Abbas has made clear to his aides that he is “not merely closing the door” on further dealings with the Trump administration, “but also throwing away the key.”
Abbas canceled a planned meeting last week with US Vice President Mike Pence (who subsequently postponed his entire trip to the region because of domestic imperatives), and made plain that neither he nor any PA leaders would meet with Trump peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who has been here in recent days. Abbas said last week that he would not accept any Trump administration peace plan and reiterated that the US could no longer serve as a peace broker. Now, the TV report said, Abbas has instructed the entire PA apparatus to sever contacts with all US officials, including those at the US consulate.
The same report quoted an unnamed US official source saying that the Trump administration will not present its intended peace plan so long as Abbas is boycotting the Trump team.
The source said the US recognizes that the Palestinians need a “cooling off” period after the Jerusalem declaration, that the US remains committed to achieving an accord, that it has no intention of seeking to impose one, but that it still hopes Abbas will change his stance.
Abbas, however, realizing that the US plan will not meet Palestinian demands, has no intention of lifting his boycott of the Trump administration, the report said.
The report asserted that this sequence of events represents good news for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has now secured US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but will not have to worry about US pressure for concessions to the Palestinians in the foreseeable future.
Responding to the Hadashot news report, a White House official was dismissive. “Apparently, the outlet that has reported this hasn’t been paying attention over the past several months,” the official told The Times of Israel. “As we have said over and over again, we will not impose a peace deal. That is not news. We anticipated a cooling off period and remain as committed to peace as ever and are working hard on our plan, which we will present when the time is right.”
A second report, on Channel 10 news, offered a slightly different narrative, based, it said, on Palestinian sources. According to this report, the US has indicated that it would like to find an alternative Palestinian leader — one who is prepared to deal with the US administration.
This notion, the TV report said, was “worrying” for Abbas and his loyalists, particularly since two names being mentioned as possible alternative Palestinian leaders are Mohammad Dahlan, a former close aide and now a bitter rival of Abbas, and Salam Fayyad, who Abbas ousted as PA prime minister and who is highly regarded in Washington.
The Channel 10 report further stated that Trump has been working with Saudi Arabia to try to pressure Abbas into accepting the intended US peace plan, and that the Saudis have warned Abbas that if he does not do so, he will need to resign. Reports to this effect have been circulating in the region for weeks, even as Saudi leaders have criticized Trump’s Jerusalem declaration and publicly backed Abbas’s demand for East Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
In his December 6 declaration on Jerusalem, Trump stressed that the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city would still have to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. His speech, welcomed by Netanyahu and Israeli leaders across most of the political spectrum, infuriated Abbas and regional leaders because it was perceived to be prejudging the fate of the disputed holy city. At the UN on Thursday, a resolution rejecting Trump’s move was approved by 128 votes to 9; the resolution had been vetoed by the US in the Security Council two days earlier.
Abbas has encouraged a series of “days of rage” in the territories since Trump’s declaration. The Islamist terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza and seeks to destroy Israel, has been demanding a violent new intifada.