The Palestinian Authority’s policy of boycotting calls for negotiations by the United States has backfired for the third time, PA officials were quoted by Yisrael Hayom as saying – but PA chief Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to change his policy of refusing to conduct talks on the basis of a peace plan U.S. President Donald Trump is set to unveil in the near future.
On Monday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reversed a policy that had been proclaimed by the State Department decades ago, saying that the U.S. would no longer view Jewish towns in Yehudah and Shomron as illegal. “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said.
“The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
In response, the PA slammed the announcement, saying that it “contradicts totally with [sic] international law.” PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said that “the US administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process.” PA negotiator Saeb Erekat called it “irresponsible.” And the PA foreign minister said that “we warn of the danger in the change of the American stance regarding the settlements, and the impact it will have on efforts to achieve peace.” Minutes after Pompeo’s announcement, the U.S. Embassy in Yerushalayim issued a warning to American citizens, telling them to “be especially careful and observant,” given that “hostile elements who oppose the secretary of state’s announcement” may try to harm Americans or facilities identified with the U.S.
But beyond the public statements, PA officials said that the latest development proved that the PA was mistaken in its approach. “The boycott that Abbas has imposed on the Trump administration has done more harm than good,” the sources said. “But Abbas continues to listen to the bad advice offered by his advisors, who urge him to further distance himself from the Trump administration and to turn a cold shoulder to all efforts by the State Department to encourage talks.”
Abbas appeared to be awaiting for an “angry Arab response,” which is unlikely to come this time, as it did not when the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy to Yerushalayim, and when it recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The announcement Monday caught everyone in the PA by surprise, “and it’s likely that there will be more surprises” – such as U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley or even Area C, if Israel takes those actions, the sources said. “Unfortunately Abbas is only listening to those who are telling him to dig in,” the sources added.