What are Israel’s Liberman, Fatah’s Dahlan plotting? – Editorial

US President Donald Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas finally spoke on the phone March 10. But anyone privy to this conversation would not have been surprised. In a cordial dialogue with little substance, Abbas called for a two-state solution effort on the 1967 lines, and Trump promised a peace effort in order to reach a regional deal and called on the Palestinian leader to halt incitement to violence. In the conversation, Abbas was invited to visit the White House. This undoubtedly is an incentive for the pragmatic Arab leaders to join the coalition against the Islamic State. Trump dispatched his envoy, Jason Greenblatt, on March 13 to both Jerusalem and Ramallah to explore positions of both sides on a regional framework for peace.

According to a senior PLO official close to the Palestinian president, Abbas is in a desperate mood. He feels betrayed by his traditional Arab partners at a time when he needs them most. His despair is focused especially on Egypt, which is clearly backing his archrival — Mohammed Dahlan, the former security chief under PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Dahlan, who has been ousted from the Fatah movement, has established in recent years a political and financial powerbase in the Gulf.

According to the official, Abbas has, for now at least, given up on changing dramatically the existing status quo. He objects to an armed intifada for fear of his own regime, and he will reach out to the new administration hoping against all odds that Trump will indeed engage in a regional deal-making and a two-state solution. While most of the PLO leadership in the West Bank sides with Abbas, few — if any — support his passive posture.