Netanyahu’s threat a reminder of why Palestinians need a deal

Netanyahu’s threat a reminder of why Palestinians need a deal


Pre-election politics in Israel is nothing if not predictable. It is almost expected that the incumbent seeking re-election will try to boost his popularity by launching a military strike or by building more illegal settlements. Alternatively, or on top of such actions, the incumbent prime minister might resort to making preposterous post-election promises, such as Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge to annex the Jordan Valley.

This is not to say that Netanyahu’s threat should not be taken seriously. As any political analyst will attest, we are living in unprecedentedly unpredictable times where anything can happen.

This is particularly true given that the countdown has begun also for the election season in the US. As we all know, being pro-Palestinian does not win any politician votes in Washington, but being pro-Israeli does. In any case, the current US administration has made it crystal clear that unless the Palestinians are willing to sign a deal, there is not much it can do to help.

The Palestinian leadership has so far rejected invitations from White House senior advisor Jared Kushner’s team even to be at the negotiating table. This naturally gives the Israeli leadership — which is likely to be less interested in such negotiations — an excuse that it is the other side which does not want peace.

This brings me to the point I have repeatedly made in this column: Palestinians should play ball. Yes, they are unlikely to get all that they bargain for, but they will not come back empty-handed either. And even if they do, they do not necessarily have to accept the terms.

The longer it takes to reach a peace deal, the more harmful the results will be

Faisal J. Abbas

US and Saudi sources familiar with the Kushner initiative told Arab News earlier this year that the plan would entail sacrifices by the Israelis as well. Also, at no point did any of these sources confirm that there was any plan to annex parts or all of the Jordan Valley. Rather, as reported, they said there would be a proposal involving recognition of the State of Palestine, and a negotiated land swap between the two states.

For decades now, observers have been warning that the window for peace is closing. As painful as the reality may be, Palestinians must be pragmatic and accept the truth that the longer it takes to strike a deal, the less they will be able to get out of it. This has now been historically proven.

Furthermore, the longer it takes to reach a peace agreement, the more harmful the results will be, indeed have already been, for neighboring countries, especially Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Israelis must act quickly and decisively too, because regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, the prospects for a two-state solution are rapidly receding. Unless Netanyahu, or whoever becomes the next leader of Israel, has a plan to throw nearly 5 million Palestinians into the sea, the demographics on the ground will make coexistence impossible.

What complicates the situation further is that the Netanyahu team continues to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land to secure votes. While this has helped him become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, it has made peace with the Palestinians all the more difficult to achieve.

To put the problem in perspective, one need only consider the relatively small number of settlers who had to be relocated when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dismantled 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005. Or the few thousands who had to be evacuated from the Sinai Peninsula when then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin dismantled 18 Jewish settlements there in 1982.

Under Netanyahu, the number of illegal settlers in the West Bank is said to have grown to 800,000. Such a large population makes relocating the settlers a daunting challenge, and makes negotiations to establish a viable, contiguous state more difficult for Palestinians.

Under the circumstances, a plan to annex the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights or any other piece of Arab land may serve candidate Netanyahu very well from a political standpoint. But there is no gain for Israel going forward, for such a move would only make normalization of ties with Arab countries more difficult, while Iran remains a major threat to Arabs and Israelis alike.

• Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor in Chief of Arab News

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

King Salman denounces Israeli premier’s annexation threat

King Salman spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the telephone on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 13 September 2019

King Salman denounces Israeli premier’s annexation threat

  • It’s a very dangerous escalation against Palestinians, Saudi monarch tells Abbas in a call
  • Abbas expressed his appreciation of the Kingdom’s unwavering support for Palestine and its people

JEDDAH: King Salman reiterated on Thursday Saudi Arabia’s condemnation and categorical rejection of the Israeli prime minister’s stated intention to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

In a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Salman said Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration is a very dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people, and a flagrant violation of the UN charter and international norms.

The monarch added that Israel’s attempt to impose a fait accompli will not obscure the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

Abbas expressed his appreciation for the care and great importance that King Salman attaches to the Palestinian cause. 

The president also hailed the Kingdom’s consistent and firm stance toward Palestine and its people in regional and international summits and forums.

Abbas praised the Saudi call for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the level of foreign ministers to discuss and confront Netanyahu’s declaration.

Palestine’s Foreign Ministry urged the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, the occupying power, to dissuade it from carrying out the annexation, and to hold it accountable for its grave breaches of international law.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

“The pillars of Israel’s ruling right-wing coalition … are doing their utmost in conspiring to speed up putting forward the issue of annexing the occupied West Bank or large parts of it as a hot topic in the public debate in Israel,” the ministry said in a statement.

It warned of the damage that Israel’s expansion of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land is doing to prospects for peace based on a two-state solution.

“When will the (UN) Security Council and the states purporting to care for peace as per the principle of a two-state solution take practical measures to save the peace process and the two-state solution from the clutches of colonial settlement?” the ministry asked.

A spokesman for the UN secretary-general said Netanyahu’s vow would be a “serious violation of international law.” Stephane Dujarric also said the pledge would be “devastating” to the potential for peace with the Palestinians.

Russia warned that the move could sharply increase regional tensions. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had noted the Arab world’s “strongly negative reaction” to Netanyahu’s announcement.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry condemned Netanyahu’s plan as “contradicting international law and various UN resolutions, as well as threatening the continuation of the peace process.” The Indonesian government urged OIC countries to collectively respond to what it referred to as “dangerous announcement.”

Saudi crown prince meets German former foreign minister

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi crown prince meets German former foreign minister

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s former foreign minister, in Riyadh on Tuesday. The two men discussed a number of matters of common interest.

Also present at the meeting were Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Minister of Commerce and Investment Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, and Jorg Ranau, the German ambassador to the Kingdom.