When Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas hailed Joe Biden’s electoral victory over the Trump administration, the Palestinians made a gross miscalculation. Succinctly termed a return to the status quo, Abbas assumed that with Donald Trump’s departure from the White House, incoming US President Joe Biden would resume two-state solution diplomacy and abandon his predecessor’s legacy.
However, the Abraham Accords, under which Gulf states were enticed to normalize relations with Israel and thus break away from the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, became a pivot point anchoring Biden’s policies to Trump’s, despite the administration claiming a return to the status quo under the two-state diplomatic framework.
The PA can no longer pretend a resumption of the former status quo.
With Biden refusing to revoke Trump’s concessions to Israel –– notably the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem –– the PA can no longer pretend a resumption of the former status quo, no matter how much Biden touts the two-state compromise in a show of purported adherence to international consensus on the matter.
At the Negev Summit in March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined the next steps in US foreign policy regarding the normalization agreements and the Palestinian Authority. “One of the issues we discussed today was how countries involved in the Abraham Accords and normalization, as well as those that have longstanding diplomatic relationships with Israel, can support the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people in concrete ways and have a positive impact on the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza,” Blinken stated.
The US State Department hinted at a plan for regional cooperation in October 2021, when State Department officials declared that the Abraham Accords could be used as leverage “to advance progress on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict,” while still maintaining that the two-state paradigm could not be replaced by the normalization agreements.
Blinken’s rhetoric indicates that the US still prefers to maintain its humanitarian agenda when it comes to Palestine. As long as both Israeli colonial settlement expansion and the PA’s security coordination with Israel continue, neither the US nor the international community will be seeking any political alternatives.
The US still prefers to maintain its humanitarian agenda when it comes to Palestine.
At the Negev Summit, Blinken proposed a focus group which would concentrate on Palestine –– a compromised initiative which was rejected by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who, according to the Times of Israel, suggested integrating Palestinians with the other six focus groups pertaining to national security, health, education, food security, energy, and tourism to prevent a possible backlash that could further jeopardize the Israeli coalition government.
The Abraham Accords shaped former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that Arab and Gulf states are no longer prioritizing the Palestinian cause as they forge ties with Israel. Trump’s brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 2020 created the framework for other countries to follow suit.
In a statement criticizing the Negev Summit, the PA’s Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh declared, “Arab normalization meetings without ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine are just an illusion, a mirage, and a free reward for Israel.”
Shtayyeh’s rhetoric may have sought to portray the PA as actively promoting the Palestinian political struggle, but calling the normalization process “an illusion” is incorrect. It would have been better for the PA to acknowledge the normalization process as a diplomatic weapon, which Israel has used to its advantage, unlike the illusory state-building gimmicks which have failed to even promote the concept of Palestinian independence.
The US and the EU contributed $1 billion directly to the PA in 2005.
The US and the EU contributed $1 billion directly to the PA in 2005, thus creating an ongoing political and economic distinction between Ramallah, which is subservient to the two-state compromise, and Hamas in Gaza. In recent years, particularly since the Trump administration’s tenure, the PA has been in a perpetual financial crisis because of conditioned funding even from the EU.
During a meeting with Blinken in Ramallah, Abbas stated he would welcome participating in the proposed regional alliance, if it is not linked to the framework of the Abraham Accords. In 2020, Abbas enjoyed a limited spot in the limelight when he denounced the normalization agreements while alleging that the PA was considering political alternatives for Palestine, only to backtrack later and spout the same rhetoric of the two-state framework while proposing an international peace conference.
What Abbas says, however, holds no substance. It is not just that the Abraham Accords and the pretended PA repudiation of the agreements, while at the same groveling before diplomats who hailed the agreements, discredit Abbas. But rather the PA has a track record of normalizing Israeli colonialism: the Abraham Accords are just one facet of normalizing Israel’s colonial enterprise.
“Any regional efforts to expand our sovereignty will be welcome, but we will not be partner to efforts that are used as cover to maintain occupation,” Abbas stated. Israel’s colonial military occupation prevents any expansion of sovereignty, with or without the Abraham Accords. Omitting such a basic fact indicates how much the PA has normalized Israel’s colonial and military occupation prior to the Trump administration taking an overt approach to US foreign policy when it comes to supporting Israel against legitimate Palestinian political demands.
The PA opted to maintain the two-state rhetoric.
The PA’s dependence upon security coordination is another major issue that existed prior to the Abraham Accords. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has prioritized security coordination in the absence of diplomatic engagement between Israel and the PA. While Israel’s Defense Ministry publicly revealed Gantz having discussions with Abbas on security coordination, the PA opted to maintain the two-state rhetoric –– namely “the importance of creating a political horizon that leads to a political solution in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions.”
Even if the Abraham Accords had not been signed, however, the PA lacks political leverage. The choice Abbas now faces is dismal. Opting out of regional cooperation within the framework may save face with Palestinians, but it will not be enough for the PA to garner the slightest respect from the people, who have already been betrayed by Ramallah’s earlier choices of “normalizing” Israel itself and security coordination.
If the PA decides to take up the US offer of regional cooperation, its participation will not steer any diplomatic engagement towards the Palestinian political struggle. Not only because the PA offers no alternative, but also because the Abraham Accords brought Arab and Gulf states closer to the international consensus on legitimizing Israel’s colonial presence and violence. Regional initiatives such as those Blinken summarized in his latest initiative will not be pro-Palestine. The PA’s presence will only whitewash the normalization agreements and intensify Ramallah’s latest concessions that harken back to earlier betrayals of the Palestinian people and their struggle.