"The Palestinian Authority will benefit from the Trump peace plan only if the Two-States concept returns to the agenda"
Ronit Marzan, an expert in Palestinian politics, Haifa University
What does the Palestinian Authority (PA) believe it stands to gain from the Trump peace plan?
Throughout history, decisions of peace and war were often influenced by the emotions of the people and their leaders. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before making his peace plan public was an affront to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and to the Palestinian people. Abbas was labeled as a submissive and failed leader on the one hand, and Israel’s collaborator on the other. The Palestinian people feel as if they are being treated like goods transferred from the hands of the Arab "merchant" to those of the western "merchant".
The PA can benefit from the Trump peace plan only if the plan puts the Two-States concept back on the international agenda, and forces the two parties to progress towards a permanent resolution on the core issues: borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, and prisoners.
Such a peace plan may create a number of positive developments: it can restore the Palestinians' wounded national pride; help the PA maintain its position as the legitimate and exclusive representative of the Palestinian people, and prevent Arab leaders and the international community from regarding Hamas as such; weaken the power struggles within the Fatah movement, and force the rival parties to work towards advancing the political process; create an attractive economic environment for investors, which will help solve the younger generation’s unemployment problems, and mitigate their drive to revolt; and weaken the appeal of leftist and Islamist opposition parties, who wish to promote the one-state solution.
Photo: Courtesy of the author
What does it fear it might lose?
The PA fears that Trump’s peace plan will not include an effective and achievable solution to the five core issues mentioned above. It also fears that the plan will separate between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a move which will undermine its standing as the sole representative of Palestinian national aspirations, and increase internal public criticism. This could lead to a major uprising, even to the collapse of the PA and a takeover of Hamas, supported by other factions.
How can the PA contribute to promoting the peace plan?
The PA can advance a national reconciliation with Hamas, lift the economic sanctions it imposes on Hamas government in Gaza, and recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas administration until elections are held. The PA can also stop boycotting Washington, and re-launch its dialogue with the Trump administration and with the leaders of the Arab countries, in order to persuade them to bring the Saudi peace initiative back to the table.
Such steps will pull the rug out from under the Israeli “no partner” approach, and convince the international community that the PA is a responsible entity that is worthy of leading the Palestinian people toward statehood.
Which obstacles is the PA liable to mount, and how can it sabotage the process?
If it wishes to throw a monkey wrench into peace plan the process, the PA has several options. Thwarting the national reconciliation with Hamas and upholding the sanctions on Gaza are likely to widen popular protest in the West Bank, and may push the Gaza Strip into an extensive military confrontation with Israel.
If the PA convinces King Abdullah of Jordan to support its stance on the Jerusalem issue, together they will be able to repel any Saudi attempt to oust Jordan and the Palestinians from their exclusive authority (alongside Israel) over Haram al-Sharif. Today, more than ever, King Abdullah needs the support of the Palestinian citizens living in his country, in light of the protests and growing criticism against the Jordanian government and the royal family. To maintain his position, he will have to stand by the Palestinians and insist on preserving the Two-States solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
Another possible step is to continue insisting on a neutral mediator in addition to the U.S., such as EU representatives, U.N. envoy Nickolay Mladenov, the Kremlin, or even British Prince William, who was quoted at the end of his visit to Israel in June as displaying a willingness to engage in mediation efforts between Israel and the Palestinians.
Dr. Ronit Marzan is a lecturer of Middle Eastern history at Haifa University, a researcher at the Chaikin Institute for Geo-Strategy, and an expert on Palestinian society and politics. She served for 32 years in the Israeli intelligence and security community, and wrote the book "Yasser Arafat – Rhetoric of a Single Leader".