The Biden administration failed in its plans to secure calm in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. The PA chairman rejected the American plan to fight terrorism and claimed that the administration is biased in favor of Israel.
The refusal of Abbas to fight terrorism emphasizes that he has finished his role as a possible partner for negotiations with Israel.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was outraged by the February 12, 2023, decision of Israel’s security cabinet to recognize nine unauthorized outposts in Judea and Samaria. He issued a statement that the decision is a challenge to American and Arab efforts and a provocation to the Palestinian people that will lead to further tensions and escalation.
Abbas continued the extreme line against Israel in a speech at the Jerusalem Conference held on February 12, 2023, in Cairo, where he claimed that the Western Wall is an Islamic Waqf and part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Just as our people rejected the Balfour Declaration and its results, we also rejected all attempts to liquidate our cause or falsify the facts about it. We rejected the “deal of the century,” and we refused — and we still refuse — to accept the move of the U.S. embassy or any other embassy to Jerusalem.
Biden Pitches Three Failed Envoys
The Biden administration has failed in its efforts to calm tensions. He recently sent three high-ranking envoys to the Middle East to prevent a security escalation, but they returned empty-handed.
In recent weeks, he sent: National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, CIA Chief William Burns, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
All three met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA Chairman Abbas, but returned to Washington without tangible results.
Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to the American ideas for calming the West Bank. He promised to restrain ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich and to avoid unilateral measures that could increase tensions before the month of Ramadan. But PA Chairman Abbas torpedoed the Americans’ plans, while trying to blackmail them and secure a political achievement, such as the opening of the American consulate in eastern Jerusalem or the reopening of the PLO office in Washington. When Abbas realized the administration was not interested in these moves now, he simply rejected the American plan to return security control to the PA to fight against the armed groups.
The security plan was prepared by American General Mike Fenzel, who coordinates between the U.S. administration and the Palestinian Authority security forces.
Fenzel followed General Keith Dayton, who served in the years 2005-2010 as a coordinator between the administration and the PA and trained the PA’s security forces on how to fight terrorism after the second intifada.
General Fenzel planned to establish a special force of several thousand PA security personnel who would undergo training in Jordan, and be stationed in the Nablus and Jenin areas to fight against the armed terrorist groups and allow the Palestinian Authority to regain security control in the region.
His plan won the support of the head of the CIA, William Burns, the support of Egypt and Jordan, and the agreement of the Israeli security establishment.
Senior administration officials asked Abbas to meet the PA’s security obligations as per the Oslo Accords and agree to a plan for the PA to fight terrorism on its own, so that the IDF would refrain from entry into Area A of the West Bank. But Abbas rejected the American plan and blamed Israel for the terrorism.
Abbas tried to convince the senior American officials that his way was better and that he would succeed in luring the wanted terrorists with promises of amnesty, salaries, and vehicles in exchange for them laying down their weapons.
Abbas’ containment plan though is destined for failure. He tried to implement it without success in recent months, but the members of the armed groups in Jenin and Nablus rejected it outright.
Abbas’ Reading of President Biden
Abbas’ working assumption is that the Biden administration is preoccupied with its confrontation with Russia over the war in Ukraine and the economic conflict with China. Biden, according to this assumption, does not want a U.S. confrontation with the PA. Therefore, Abbas allowed himself to ignore Biden’s request. After all, Biden has not invited him to the White House for a visit, and from the PA perspective the White House is not ready to get its hands dirty and offer the Palestinians a political horizon.
In conversations with his associates, Abbas says that the American administration cannot be trusted because it is biased in Israel’s favor.
The refusal of the PA chairman is a blow to the Biden administration. Terrorist activity is expected to increase toward the month of Ramadan (March 22 – April 20, 2023) and force Israel to defend itself through intensive military activity, which could result in Palestinian casualties and regional instability.
President Biden is wrong in refusing to apply levers of pressure on Abbas, as President George Bush did at the time on Yasser Arafat to fight terrorism. Abbas did not hesitate even for a moment to thwart the American security plan, knowing that the continuation of the existing situation may encourage terrorism and cause more victims on both sides.
Abbas’ reluctance to have the PA fight terrorism emphasizes the fact that he has finished his role as a possible partner for negotiations with Israel. He has only one thing that interests him: to survive in his position of power.