As all attempts to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict faltered over the past years, the current US administration seems adamant about making efforts to reach a peaceful solution.
On Nov. 6, President Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to make an urgent visit to Saudi Arabia, where he was told that the US administration has started developing a new blueprint to end the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis through an “ultimate deal” offered by US President Donald Trump and his team based on the peaceful principle of the two-state solution.
According to Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, leaks from well-informed Palestinian sources revealed that during his visit to Saudi Arabia, Abbas received from Saudi mediator Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a US offer to establish a Palestinian state “on paper” only, without such a state being sovereign or having the ability to make decisions of any kind. In return, the Israeli settlements would be frozen, economic incentives in Area C set out by the Oslo agreement would be provided and circulation at the Karameh crossing with Jordan and the Rafah crossing with Egypt would be facilitated.
The newspaper showed that the US proposal is the only viable option for the United States and that if Abbas and the Palestinian leadership reject it, they won’t be provided with another solution — meaning that the US administration may renege on its commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abdel Sattar Qassem, a political science professor at An-Najah National University in Nablus, told Al-Monitor, “The way President Abbas was summoned to visit Saudi Arabia is unfathomable and raises several question marks, especially as it coincided with the resignation of Saad Hariri from the premiership of the Lebanese government.”
He said, “What was put forward during the meeting held between Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was serious, as the latter briefed Abu Mazen on the future of the region and the fate of the Palestinian cause through the US offer and other decisive decisions aimed at ending the existing conflict.”
Qassem added, “The US administration will put forth plans aimed at solving the outstanding issue of the Palestinian refugees by settling them in the countries they reside in. Through the Saudi crown prince, the United States is seeking to get President Abbas' forced approval on such a step, especially at a time when the [Palestinian] president is taking tougher stances on the peace process and the two-state solution principle. Add to this his refusal to renounce the legitimate Palestinian constants that include the right of return and the need to put an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Also, [Abbas] refuses to take part in the increasingly tense regional conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
He noted, “There are Arab parties firmly working to topple Abbas and find a suitable alternative, as President Abbas will not accept the US offer easily. There is a deeply entrenched national partnership working on finding satisfactory solutions to the issue, and it might take Abbas a while to respond to the offer given the lack of a suitable alternative to replace him. But if he does not accept the US demands aimed at bringing about peace and finding a two-state solution, then he would be forced to resign, and this would put the region in a complicated situation that would lead to bad repercussions.”
Saudi Arabia had told Abbas to accept the US peace plan or resign.
Saleh al-Naami, an independent researcher focusing on Israeli affairs, told the PalToday website that Hamas’ handover of the Gaza Strip to the national consensus government and the movement’s subsequent visit to Iran, which is Saudi Arabia’s enemy, were two factors behind Saudi Arabia’s summoning of Abbas.
Naami noted in a Facebook post published by the same website, “According to the Israeli leaks, the summoning of Abbas came following prolonged contacts between the Saudi crown prince and the US president two days before the visit, and Abbas is required to be very careful and keep a watchful eye on all developments.”
In turn, Yusuf Ibrahim, an independent writer and political analyst, told Al-Monitor that Abbas’ visit came against the background of the secret visit paid to Saudi Arabia weeks ago by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and special envoy to the peace process, in an attempt to push the settlement process forward.
Abbas received several dictates as part of the US plan to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such a plan would grant full citizenship and rights to the Palestinians in the diaspora and would witness the return of direct negotiations with Israel. This comes at a time when the number of Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon is on the rise amid attempts to find a solution through a potential settlement process.
Ibrahim said, “The ultimate deal that is being drafted by the US administration is based on many principles and conditions that Abbas alone does not have the right to decide on, as there are Palestinian rights and constants that cannot be easily relinquished.”
He added, “This step came at an inconvenient and very difficult time during which the Palestinian reconciliation is facing outstanding issues such as the security issue in Gaza and the issue of the Gazan employees.”
According to Masr al-Arabia, the ultimate deal includes many articles, which, according to the United States, provide solutions based on the two-state principle, in return for generous financial Arab support, particularly from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to the Palestinian Authority.
In his September speech at the United Nations, Abbas announced that Israel had rejected all international initiatives aimed at finding a solution, including the Arab peace initiative, and said that the two-state solution is in jeopardy and that Palestinians cannot stand still in the face of this threat.
“We will have to take steps or look for alternatives to preserve our national existence,” he said.
The US president is trying to take advantage of Abbas’ presence to make the deal happen before Abbas suddenly disappears and plunges the region in a state of chaos and instability. Add to this the good relationship between Abbas and Saudi Arabia, which may lead Abbas to approve the US demands under Saudi pressure.