I was going to call this piece “Abbas Plays Poker” but then Khaled Abu Toameh wrote a piece in the J Post called Abbas’s Big Bluff in which he argues that Abbas has called for Palestinian elections now with the knowledge that Hamas won’t participate. Khaled doesn’t quite make the point that this is a way for Abbas to stay in power, but that’s exactly what it is.

That touches on the big bluff. The bluff is not the one directed at Hamas, but the one directed at the international community and especially the Obama administration. For years and years American foreign policy has been built around the premise that there is a Palestinian partner for peace. After Arafat died and Abbas became the new leader of the Palestinians, the word came out from American diplomatic circles and parroted by the media, that Mahmoud Abbas was a moderate and sympathetic to the West.

Well, Abbas has now told the world that he is planning to quit. He is so darned frustrated with the non-progress of the peace talks, and especially with the Americans’ inability to “freeze” all Israeli building activity not only in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, but also in east Jerusalem. He’s had enough of this and now he’s going to leave. Unspoken in the threat is that there isn’t anybody else who is “moderate” and of a leadership capacity to replace him. Salam Fayyad, for example, the current PM of the Palestinians is considered capable, but a technocrat who is not particularly beloved among the Palestinians. Others like the young guard, Dahlan and Barghouti are either not ripe yet or in prison. Abbas is the only known quantity and since the conventional wisdom places him as a moderate, losing him would spell the end of the known and entry into the unknown. Chaos is sure to follow, is the assumption among many diplomats in the West.

Let’s call this Bluff #1.

At the same time this news is coming from the Palestinian leader, there is now a news-leak published today in Ha’aretz, that Salam Fayyad’s decision to create the infrastructure of a state may have actually received such a warm reception in the West, that not only EU countries are receptive to taking the next step and actually permitting the declaration of a Palestinian state but even the Obama administration has secretly consented to support the creation of such a state.

The plan specifies that at the end of a designated period for bolstering national institutions the PA, in conjunction with the Arab League, would file a “claim of sovereignty” to the UN Security Council and General Assembly over the borders of June 4, 1967 (before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, during which Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza).

Fayyad is also seeking a new Security Council resolution to replace Resolutions 242 and 338 in the hope of winning the international community’s support for the borders of a Palestinian state and applying stronger pressure on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

Let’s call this Bluff #2.

A good set of bluffs deserves a third bluff that isn’t of the same order, but helps to define the critical importance of the key bluffs it is supporting. Let’s call it Bluff #3:

Following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ announcement that he would not run for another term, a senior Fatah official told Ynet that if serious progress was not made soon in peace talks, the organization would consider reverting to popular warfare.

The source said Saturday that more and more Fatah operatives were calling for a return to violent resistance.

“We are not talking about terror attacks and weapons, but we are talking about protests and (throwing) stones, like the anti-fence protests, and about strikes and protests by the people, so that the world understands that the next step will be unpleasant and we go back to the way things were before Oslo.”

Wanna bet that senior official is Saeb Erakat?

UPDATE: The day after this post was written, it was reported that Abbas was threatening to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and declare the peace process dead. Bluff #3a, anybody?

Okay, back to my first post about the Palestinian endgame – wherein I propose that in this upcoming period which is supposed to last several years has the Palestinians entering a new stage in their war against Israel, one where they continue to delay a peace deal until they end up with a world that supports a single state solution. In the discussion that followed, I was asked why Fayyad would propose a state if I was right. My response was that it’s a win-win threat to make. It scares the Israelis and may get them to make additional concessions to avoid this outcome, and if it doesn’t scare the Israelis and somehow a Palestinian state comes into being, the manner of its coming into being will ensure that they can proceed to demand the rest of Israel. The process of seeking to make Israel into part of Palestine continues in one way or another.

Well, here we are and things are moving apace, certainly faster than I predicted. Let’s review:

**Across the world, Palestinian groups are teaming up with scholars, unions and other leftists to push hard on an academic, cultural and economic boycott movement. They are garnering minor successes, some failures as well but mostly a ton of publicity much of which depicts Israel in hideous terms.

**The same groups have come to use the language of apartheid to attack Israel.

**These groups are parading Jewish sympathizers as the face of their movements.

**The Sixth Fatah Congress voted not to come to peace with Israel unless all of Jerusalem is Palestinian. In the same Congress they voted to keep refugee camps open for propaganda purposes, they voted to incorporate into Fatah one of the most violent groups in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria and they voted to continue to push against Israel internationally using the apartheid model. They also informed the world through statements by people like Dahlan that contrary to previous Palestinian claims, the Fatah charter had never been changed to remove the paragraphs calling for elimination of Israel and denying the Jewish connection to Israel.

**Throughout the years during which Arafat and then Abbas ruled over the Palestinian Authority, the hysterical Israel bashing in the schools and Palestinian media has continued unabated.

**There has been no positive response to any Israeli actions towards the Palestinians. For example, about 25% of checkpoints have been removed, an entire PA army has been subsidized and armed and Israel protected the PA government from Hamas in Judea and Samaria/West Bank. The rhetoric against Israel remained aggressive and negative.

**Last year, Mahmoud Abbas said “no” to an offer of peace and a state by Israel that included the Taba Plan based on the Clinton Parameters and additionally addressed the complex problem of coming to a settlement on Jerusalem by offering to internationalize it.

**Abbas came up with a new demand once Netanyahu came into power: no negotiations until total settlement freeze. A few months earlier he rejected a generous offer by Olmert. An aide to Abbas told the Washington Post that the delay was intended to bring down Netanyahu’s government within two years. The apparent basis for this thinking is that Obama will not stand for an Israeli government that isn’t offering peace.

**Abbas has now announced that he is tired of the games and since Israel won’t play along with him, he is not running in the Palestinian election he called for January.

**A warning trial balloon is floating higher and higher now with the claim that the Palestinians will not only declare a state, but will get the UN Security Council to vote for acceptance on such a state that includes all of east Jerusalem, 1949 armistice lines and superseding UNSC resolutions 242 and 338 which effectively means that all of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria up to the Green Line becomes the new Palestine.


Well, the bluffs here are as follows: #3, returning to low ebb civilian violence against Israel; #2 declaring a Palestinian state; #1 Abbas going away.

#3 may happen, but is unlikely to happen because the Palestinian economy is doing well right now and people are tired of the fight. They’ll get some good demonstrations in there, but a full-blown society-wide civil insurrection seems highly unlikely. The Palestinians also need to be careful not to start using suicide bombings again because it worked against them last time.

#2 may happen, but everybody must know that there is absolutely no way that Israel would ever again leave the Western Wall or the Temple Mount. Since the trial balloon floated here provides the Palestinians with everything the Jordanians and Egyptians held in 1949, including the Temple Mount and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, there is no way Israel would ever permit this to happen. In other words, the world would be signing off on an interminable war. I doubt that any serious thinking western diplomat would ever let their governments go that route.

#1 Abbas wants sympathy and to achieve this he is striving to look like the underdog while underscoring how important he is to the peace process. He wants to be courted back to the dance by the powers out there because it gives him further leverage in any future peace discussions. It’s called playing hard to get.

It is plain to see that the Abbas/Fayyad duo are a pair of shrewd operators. Despite the heartwarming calls of “moderates” by European and American diplomats, however, the entire panoply of Palestinian activities over the past several years points to a different type of campaign against Israel. This time they are using supposed moderate stances in public while ensuring that their anti-Israel activities abroad and with their own population become more robust.

What is most worrisome is that they appear to be following the “stages” plan in which the idea is to move forward against Israel in stages, as circumstances permit, using every new stage as the starting point of a new cycle of doing whatever needs to be done to get to the next stage. The ultimate goal has not changed and that’s the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state in favor of an Arab-led Palestinian state.

So I say, let Abbas go. Drop him like a hot potato. So much for bluff #1.

Tell Fayyad that Jerusalem will have to be negotiated in good faith because even if a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood takes place, or especially if one takes place, then there won’t be any chance of a settlement, just a war. So much for bluff #2.

Low-ebb intifadahs are not an existential threat to Israel. Violence will rebound against the Palestinians. So much for bluff #3.

Finally, tell Israelis not to panic. Ignore the bluffing. Get Iron Dome and other anti-missile systems into place; continue to build the neighborhoods ringing Jerusalem but keep the upper hand by stopping contruction in Judea and Samaria/West Bank anywhere outside of the 3% envelope near the Green Line offered by Barak at Taba; put on a diplomatic counter-offensive informing the western powers that the red line is the Jewish part of east Jerusalem – a red line that leads to inevitable war.

Then, offer the Taba plan to the Palestinians again. Do it publicly and loudly.

Repeat this loud offer of peace and a Palestinian state every time somebody complains there isn’t peace. Because there could be peace tomorrow…if the Palestinians would stop believing and being led to believe by naive American administrations and pro-Arab European diplomats that their endgame will lead to either 1949 armistice lines with the right to pursue the rest of Israel, or a single state from the river to the sea.

UPDATE: Two days following this post, it was publicized that Abbas was angry at Fayyad for proposing a two state solution to world leaders as the Ha’aretz article reported. Fayyad’s office sent a denial to the media, claiming that no secret arrangements had been made with world leaders about a two state solution. Bluff? Truth? Delaying tactic?

Follow up: More About the Palestinian Endgame, where I include evidence about Palestinian intentions from Fayyad’s own two year plan…

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  • You hit the nail on the head here. Who wouldn’t love to get a crack at Abbas at the poker table these days. His tells couldn’t be more obvious.

    In the end he will quietly slink back into the election and use his almost certain victory to put the squeeze on Hamas. I’m sure he cares more about minimizing them as a threat than anything the Israelis will or will not bring to the negotiating table in the near future.

  • Middle, since you’re living here in the US, why don’t you leave off advising Israel and address yourself to your own government? Because this is all about Obama. If the administration buys it, the strategy succeeds; if not, not. Israel’s reaction is secondary, if not a matter of indifference to Abbas.

    Hopeychange is here, Middle.

    Looks like you’ve quickly been proven wrong about Palestinian disdain for negotiations and a two-state solution. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) I’ll bet that if Fayyad builds and declares his state, Hamas will oppose such a declaration vociferously– and with good reason. It will undermine a one-state solution.

  • There ain’t gonna be a two state solution like this, Tom. The UNSC and the UN can’t rip the Western Wall from Israel. You will see I’m right about how this will play out.

    Obama’s administration will not buy it and will not give in to this trial balloon. Clinton – the former President Clinton – was there in person when the Israelis offered his plan to the Palestinians and were refused. He knows what is on the line here and there is no way that a White House with a Clinton in it, even if not in the Oval Office, will think for a minute that this is a line that can be crossed with Israel.

    There is no way that a President with Rahm as an adviser could be ignorant about the implications of modifying 242 or giving the Palestinians unilateral reign over the Jewish Quarter and the Temple Mount.

    My analysis is spot on. It’s a bluff. Why you, of all people, can’t see this with your constant mantra about seeking the best position for negotiations and that this is what Abbas has been doing all along, is beyond me.

    As for giving advice to Israel or the US, since what I’m giving is free they can accept it for what it’s worth. If I were advising the US on anything, it would be to listen to Paul Krugman.

  • If it is true that this has been a plot all along by the Palestinians to force a one-state solution upon Israel, then why did Israel play into their hands by expanding settlements throughout the west bank, integrating them completely and in such a way as to make disengagement practically impossible?

    It’s Israel and its actions that have sunk the two-state solution, not anything the Palestinians have done. The Palestinians at this point just don’t want Apartheid, which is what a two-state solution would be at this point, creating a bantustan under Israeli domination. I think that this is not an unfair desire.

    Blame your precious Israel for blowing the two-state solution. It’s their fault and it’s about time that they suffer the consequences for their actions. I know, such a thing is blasphemy, but there I said it.

  • Um, R, did you miss the part where Israel evacuated all of Gaza and not a single settler was left? That led to more terror attacks and more rockets from the Palestinians. So I guess that puts a little responsibility for what happened at the feet of the Palestinians.

    Did you happen to miss the part where Israel offered the Palestinians a state over 94% and then 97% of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, along with 100% of Gaza. That was rejected by the Palestinians and their rejection was accompanied by a war.

    And last year, as recently as 2008, Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a peace deal based on Taba and the Clinton Parameters and even added an internationalized Jerusalem. Abbas said “no.” No real excuse given, either. These deals offered by two different Israeli governments with two different leaders were committed to removing settlers from 97% of Judea and Samaria/West Bank. They were committed to replacing the other 3% with a 1:1 land exchange for land inside the Green Line.

    Settlements are a problem? Sure they are. Are they a solvable problem? Sure they are. Is there any reason to blame the problem on them? No. Because the Palestinians could have a state that encompasses 97% of the land upon which these settlements sit. No Bantustans, just a contiguous Palestine.

    My precious Israel has offered peace, a Palestinian state and a bright future for the region. All the Palestinians need to do now is say, “Hmmm, a Jewish state next to us? Sure.”

  • In Rahm we trust, Middle? Really? After the last ten months?

  • We’ll watch this play out.

    We’ll know if I’m wrong soon enough. My prediction is that all these bluffs will play well in the US and poorly in Israel. They will probably get further concessions out of the Americans…and therefore from the Israelis.

    It’s all one big game, however, and that’s the long term prediction here: they will keep things just at a simmer (turning up the heat when needed as they’re doing now) for as long as possible.