After rejecting US involvement in the Palestinian peace process for the Middle East, PLO leader Abbas is seeking new allies for support. Here’s why that might not be a winning strategy.

The two parties of Palestine, Hamas and PLO’s governing body Fatah, have attempted to reconcile many times since their rivalry began following the 2006 general elections,
The two parties of Palestine, Hamas and PLO’s governing body Fatah, have attempted to reconcile many times since their rivalry began following the 2006 general elections, (AFP Archive)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected the US role in mediating in the peace process with Israel on September 27.

It was a strategy adopted both by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas after the US president decided to move Washington's embassy to Jerusalem. However, this time, Abbas also welcomed other countries to contribute to the peace process.

Almost a month after the speech by Abbas, an unlikely actor, Oman, appeared to step up to talk with the leaderships of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat, following which Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah paid a visit to Ramallah. Muscat said it relies on the efforts of the US in working towards the peace deal. 

While denying it played the role of mediator, Oman suggested that it was only offering ideas to help Israelis and Palestinians to come together. 

Now the question arises about whether Abbas can shape the peace process in a new manner with a new strategy or not.

For Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and expert on Palestinian affairs, even though Mahmoud Abbas is looking for new allies, “his strategy is a non-strategy."

Baroud says his peace process strategy won’t work for two reasons; sustaining the idea of a disingenuous peace process, and refusing to seek alternative strategies that are predicated on the unity of his own people.

“A political ploy”

In January 2017, US President Donald Trump assigned his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner to launch a Middle East peace effort aimed at resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Less than a year later, the US decision to recognise Jerusalem effectively killed the two-state solution, a move widely seen as sabotaging Trump’s own pledge to broker the peace process between Palestine and Israel.  

“Mahmoud Abbas, after he was betrayed by the United States, is now trying to seek alliance among others but nobody is going to benefit from sustaining the so-called peace process for much longer,” he says. 

The peace process was originally launched with the Oslo Accords in 1993, based on United Nations Security Council resolutions. Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords however, the peace process has failed to produce a sustainable peace agreement or a Palestinian state. 

But, Baroud says, political arrangements following the Oslo Accords have proceeded either on the sidelines or entirely outside the international arena. 

“Abbas is saying that the US is no longer serious and no longer involved in the peace process. But at the same time the Palestinian leader is sustaining the [US] peace process,” Baroud says. 

“International law is very clear about the Israeli occupation and about the rights and the freedoms of the Palestinians. That doesn't need to be negotiated.”

Dominance over Palestinian discourse

The falling out between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the US came three months after the reconciliatory move by Hamas to dissolve its governing committee in Gaza. 

The step lead to both Hamas and the PLO using the same discourse against the US, raising hopes that the latest reconciliation efforts could finally lead to a Palestinian unity. 

But that too has failed, leaving the PLO alone with failed relations with both the US and Hamas. 

The two parties of Palestine, Hamas and PLO’s governing body Fatah, have attempted to reconcile many times since their rivalry began following the 2006 general elections, when Fatah, PLO’s main party, refused to accept Hamas’ victory in Gaza. 

Hamas took control of Gaza a year later. All of the reconciliation efforts, mostly mediated by Fatah-supporter Egypt, have failed since then.

Recently, the PLO has once again began imposing punitive measures on Gaza, which included curtailing electricity supplies and slashing the salaries of administrative staff by 20 to 50 percent. 

For Baroud, the failure of the reconciliation efforts are not surprising, as “Mahmoud Abbas completely dominate the Palestinian political discourse."

“The main reason why I don't think either Palestinian faction is really ready to reconcile with the other, basically because the political agendas between both parties are so different that room for negotiations in a middle ground is almost impossible to achieve here,” he says. 

Palestinian Ambassador to Cairo, Diab al Louh, said in a Facebook statement on November 1 that “arrangements are ongoing to hold a meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and his brother President Abdel Fattah el Sissi about the latest developments in the Palestinian issue and matters of mutual interest.”

Ramallah also said that the PLO is the sole party with the legitimacy to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel.

“No one in the Palestinian Authority will be able to deal with the political fallout of reconciling with Hamas, at least not before the transition between Mahmoud Abbas and the next leader of the Palestinian Authority is complete. So I think more or less we are going to see the same situation,” Baroud says. 

There's a complete lack of trust in the Palestinian Authority and there is a shaky trust of Hamas and it's political programs in Gaza as well, but that doesn’t mean that justice and freedom can’t be achieved in Palestine, according to Baroud.

“If there is ever to be a winning strategy to seek justice and freedom, forget about the peace process and all of this really relevant language at this point,” he says.

“At this point, the Palestinian people have to be united around a centralised leadership that they trust and be willing to make sacrifices under the auspices of this leadership.”