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memri
September 26, 2018 No.
7683

Former Palestinian Authority Minister Nabil 'Amr Urges President 'Abbas To Meet With President Trump

On September 7, 2018, Fatah member and former Palestinian Authority (PA) minister Nabil 'Amr  published an article in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat titled "Unpopular Advice for President 'Abbas." In this article, which was also published one day later in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds and which was billed as the first in a series, 'Amr called on Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas to stop boycotting the U.S. administration and to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the margins of the September 27 UN General Assembly in New York – without preconditions but also without relinquishing any of the PA positions. While praising 'Abbas for his firm rejection of the U.S. decisions on Jerusalem, UNRWA and the settlements, 'Amr stressed that a meeting with Trump would serve the Palestinian interests, for 'Abbas would be able to underscore the Palestinian positions and perhaps even convince Trump to replace his Middle East envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt who, according to 'Amr, are biased in favor of Israel. 'Amr warned that, by refusing to meet with Trump, 'Abbas would allow him to escalate his war against the Palestinians on the pretext that they are turning their backs on the peace process. He added that other countries that are in conflict with the U.S. – such as Russia, China, Turkey and Canada – continue to negotiate with it despite their tense relations with it.

The following are translated excerpts from the article:[1]    

"The circle of the Palestinian boycott has grown, and is now [applied not only to Israel but also] to international players involved in the Palestinian-Israeli [peace] process. [After the Palestinians] presented the American administration with a new condition, namely the dismissal of [Jared] Kushner and [Jason] Greenblatt, they also added the name of [the UN Middle East envoy] Nickolay Mladenov. The UN Secretary-General is required to fire him for overstepping his mandate by assuming tasks that the PA believes he is not authorized to handle. These PA demands are firm conditions for its return to the negotiation table and even for renewing the severed relations with the U.S. administration, and especially with President Trump.

"Based on my experience with Palestinian action, there is still a chance for a change in position, but this depends on the alternatives proposed. The ones who have influence in this situation are the mediators, especially those who maintain friendly personal or political relations with the influential [figure] in the Palestinian political arena, i.e., with Mahmoud 'Abbas.

"I shall present my suggestions in a series of articles, for they are numerous; to be more precise, there are many issues and I feel obliged to dispense some advice regarding them.

"Before I wrote this article, Israeli sources reported that the American President had asked to meet with President Mahmoud 'Abbas on the margins of the [September 27, 2018] UN General Assembly in New York. The Palestinian President's conditions for holding this meeting were reported as well. My advice to President 'Abbas is to transform the firm conditions he presented for [holding] the meeting into one of the items to be discussed at the meeting, if it takes place. Therefore, my advice – even if unpopular – is to hold the meeting. If it is absolutely necessary to pose conditions, they must pertain [only] to the Palestinian position regarding the renewal of the peace process [not to the meeting itself]. This will place President 'Abbas in a better position. After all, the boycott on the U.S. administration, which he is leading, has already yielded results, and the decisive proof of this is the following:

"First, President 'Abbas's firm opposition to the Deal of the Century and the extensive efforts he has made in this direction – especially following President Trump's irresponsible decisions regarding Jerusalem, UNRWA, the settlements and so on – has so far had considerable impact in terms of delaying the Deal of the Century and its official presentation. It is to President 'Abbas's credit that he did not succumb to the psychological war that was waged against him by [conveying] the naïve message that 'we will proceed with or without you,' [which hinted at] replacing the Palestinian leadership, referring mainly to 'Abbas himself. 'Abbas's steadfastness in the face of such pressures will put him in a strong position if he meets with Trump while adhering to the positions he has taken [up till now] regarding the Deal of the Century and the American role that is so misguidedly and irresponsibly biased in favor of Israel.

"Second, as for the condition of dismissing Kushner, Greenblatt and Mladenov, President 'Abbas can persuade their superiors [i.e., the U.S. President and the UN Secretary-General] that he does not wish to work with them, [because] their way of carrying out their tasks is to exert pressure on the Palestinians instead of acting as neutral mediators, as is expected of them. President 'Abbas no doubt has convincing proof of this, more so in the case of Kushner and Greenblatt than in the case of Mladenov, who does nothing without the permission of the UN Secretary-General, and therefore [in his case] it is preferable to address the man in charge and not his functionary.

"Third, before meeting with President Trump, the Palestinians must declare firmly – before, during and after ['Abbas's] upcoming speech at the UN General Assembly – that they oppose the [U.S.] decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the U.S. embassy there. There is a global consensus that the status of this city is not to be changed without the consent of both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, and as part of negotiations. The [Palestinians] must also reject all of Trump's decisions that infringe on the established rights of the Palestinians, which are recognized by the world. Such a statement will dispel any suspicion that the meeting [with Trump] implies consent to his policy. In fact, at [the meeting 'Abbas] will say [exactly] what is said outside the meeting, and more importantly, [at the meeting he] will have the courage to confront [Trump] face-to-face, and he will sustain no harm if he says after the meeting: 'We did not agree.' [But] if he does not meet with Trump, the American president will have an opportunity to incite against the Palestinians and even escalate his war against them on the pretext that they are turning their backs on the peace process.

"I therefore advise ['Abbas] to hold the meeting without changing the Palestinian position in any way, which is the method used by anyone struggling with Trump on the political level [and attempting to protect his] interests. The Chinese are facing an economic war [that the U.S.] has declared on them, and are losing billions, yet they continue to meet [with the Americans] without changing their positions. The Russians are confronting the U.S. in various arenas and with various means and tools, [but they too] continue to meet [with the Americans] without changing their positions – and the Canadians, Turks and others are doing the same.

"In sum, what is important is not the meeting itself but what is said in it. President 'Abbas must look Trump in the eye and say what he says every day. This will be more effective than a security-oriented meeting, and will be a more efficient way to thwart the Deal of the Century and the American [plan] that relies on finding a Palestinian partner with whom to make this deal, or an Arab or international partner."

 


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 7, 2018; Al-Quds (Jerusalem), September 8, 2018.