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The Palestinian President's Gifts - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In return for a 90-day settlement freeze, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has gifted Israel with 20 fighter jets and 20 billion dollars, in addition to increasing the appetite of Jewish contributors around the world in supporting the construction of more houses and flats in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.

President Abbas’s achievements also includes contributing to Obama’s defeat at the recent midterm elections after the Democrat Party lost the support of the American Jewish community; which lent its voice and money to the Republican Party due to what they perceived as Obama’s hard-line position against Israel. I also do not forget that the pressure exerted by Abbas left the US President feeling guilty towards Israel.

What was the point of all of this?

This has not recovered the West Bank or freed occupied Jerusalem, nor has this even resulted in the return of a few thousand Palestinians to their homes. The only battle that Abbas has confronted Netanyahu on is his insistence on a settlement freeze!

Without the requirement of a settlement freeze, perhaps the Israelis would not have obtained any of this. The Palestinian side has been the victim of a grand illusion which is that a settlement freeze represents a gain when in reality this would have been nothing but an early loss. This is because the settlements, like the occupation itself, is essentially invalid and does not have international legitimacy.

If you wanted a lesson in cunning then look at what Netanyahu did, for he turned the problem into a profitable business. All that has happened since the Palestinian President insisted upon the condition of a settlement freeze is that he has gifted Netanyahu with four important gains. Firstly he has excused Netanyahu from the negotiations that he originally shunned due to the nature of his hard-line government; this is because Netanyahu is the leader of a coalition government of hard-liners that will collapse if he negotiates. If you recall, the objective of putting pressure on Netanyahu in the first place was to force him to the negotiation table.

The second gain: Abbas preoccupied the Americans during the most important two-years of the presidency. He wasted this [period of time] with a sub-clause, and now Obama has entered the presidential hibernation period due to the Democrat’s defeat at the midterm elections.

Thirdly, he has encouraged Jewish hard-liners to strongly support Israel’s settlement project, and this is now being supported with money and settlers [wanting to move to settlements]. As a result of this settlement construction has intensified and expanded.

Lastly, Obama has reversed his position from punishing Netanyahu to rewarding him. In the past, Obama sought to satisfy Abbas by confronting Netanyahu, sending envoys to visit Israel instead of visiting in person, whilst on another occasion he snubbed the Israeli Prime Minister refusing to meet him. Even when Obama did meet with Netanyahu, this was conducted behind closed doors, and he refused to allow the press to take pictures of this meeting. However after his party’s defeat at the election, Obama has opened the door of the White House, and the US treasury, to Netanyahu, offering Israel fighter jets, generous financial aid, and an accommodating political position.

This is all a result of the battle over a partial settlement freeze. Can the Palestinian delegation tell us on what basis it has built a strategy where the condition of a settlement freeze is more important than seeking to liberate the occupied territories?

I know that Abbas’s comrades in the negotiation delegation will assure him that “the truth is that we are not the ones who put the condition for a settlement freeze in place; Obama is the one who proposed this.” However we all know that this was a moral position more than it was a political one, and that Abbas could have bargained to drop this in return for gains, but instead he did the complete opposite.

As for the greater tragedy, in my opinion, this is not Israel being provided with 20 fighter jets or given 20 billion dollars in US aid, but rather that this battle has turned Netanyahu into a hero in the eyes of the Israeli public and many Jews around the world. He is the man who said “no” to Obama, the man who defeated the Palestinians without bullets or even negotiations.

Netanyahu returned to power at the head of a weak government, we thought that it would only last for a few short months, however today Netanyahu is a pivotal political leader.

Can the Palestinian team in Ramallah explain exactly what their plan was?

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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