Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Palestinian leader’s own goal

From The Australian Editorial, January 17, 2018:

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is doing the cause of Palestinian statehood no good by refusing to accept the new reality introduced into Middle East settlement prospects by Donald Trump. Mr Abbas’s rejection of proposals (even before they have been finalised) for peace talks being worked out by Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt is shortsighted. Dismissing Mr Trump’s assertion he is trying to achieve “the peace deal of the century”, Mr Abbas declared: “We won’t accept his project ... his deal of the century is the slap of the century.” Mr Abbas insists Washington has no further role to play following Mr Trump’s move to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

With moves under way to cut the $US600 million ($753m) in aid the US provides for the Palestinians each year, Mr Abbas needs to face reality. Yet in his Palestinian Central Council address he provocatively pledged to continue one of the most contentious aspects of the Palestinian aid debate — the $US345m allocated in the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget to families of terrorists who kill Israelis.

Mr Trump has made it clear he has had enough of the Palestinians getting “hundreds of millions of dollars each year ... and we get no appreciation or respect”. The President has also turned his attention to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, which was founded in 1949 and has provided successive generations of Palestinians with “refugee” status. The US has long been UNRWA’s biggest benefactor, giving $US370m in 2016. As Middle East commentator Daniel Pipes has pointed out, it has “a long record of misbehaviour: incitement against Israel, supporting violent attacks on Jews, corruption, and perpetuating (rather than ending) the refugee problem”. Mr Trump is planning drastic cuts to Washington’s contribution.

Despite the Palestinian Authority’s massive debt, Mr Abbas is refusing to return to negotiating a two-state solution. It would be hard to think of a more bankrupt policy. Palestinian leaders need to be pragmatic and deal with the new Trump reality.

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