Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens during a UN Security Council meeting. Photo: Luiz Rampelotto/ Europa Newswire
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens during a UN Security Council meeting. Photo: Luiz Rampelotto / Europa Newswire

Whether US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, the “Vision for Peace,” is good or bad is highly debatable. What is indisputable is the reaction of the Palestinian leadership, which consists mostly of regurgitating the same old rhetoric about what is right, but rarely saying what is possible.

Refusal is easy, and the Palestinians have been turning down peace offers for decades. Yet they have rarely, if ever, articulated what it is that they do want.

The Palestinian website Sanad News reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that there was “nothing positive in the ‘deal of the century,’” and that “no human can accept such a plan for a population of 13 million people.” He said Palestinians seek  “only 22% of the land of historic Palestine,” but claimed Trump’s peace plan gives them “just 6%” of the West Bank and Gaza. “What kind of opportunity gives us only 11% of our land?” he raged. (Keep those number in mind for now.)

Furthermore, a Palestinian state would not accept the “Triangle,” a cluster of Arab villages in Israel, north of the West Bank, which is home to a couple of hundred thousand Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

In fact, Trump has not specified the percentage of land Palestinians would get in a final settlement, saying it is negotiable. It is Abbas who has been bandying about contradictory figures – first 6%, then 11%. And while he demands a homeland for all Palestinians around the world, he appears bent on excluding the 2 million Palestinians living in Israel.

No one knows what Abbas wants. In what has become known as the Olmert Plan, more than a decade ago he was offered almost all of the 22% of the land – the aforementioned percentage that he now demands. But he still said no.

If Abbas doesn’t know what he wants, neither do many Israeli Palestinians, also known as Arab Israelis. When Trump announced his Vision for Peace, Arab Israeli students at Tel Aviv University held a rally at which they waved Palestinian flags and shouted slogans against the plan.

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What their opposition to Trump’s proposal actually is, which would make them citizens of a Palestinian state, is unclear, however. Polls show that an overwhelming number of Arab Israelis would prefer to remain Israeli rather than become citizens of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians also seem to have little understanding of what they can or cannot get. Days after Trump unveiled the Vision for Peace, the Palestinians announced plans to table a resolution against it at the UN Security Council. They were convinced that only the US would veto the resolution and everyone else would support it.

They were wrong on both counts. The resolution was withdrawn. Khalil Jahsan, an analyst with a Washington think-tank, noted that “Palestinians clearly underestimated the response of [White House senior adviser Jared] Kushner and company…. The Americans mobilized all their resources to pressure all the relevant parties. At the same time, the Palestinians overestimated the commitment of their friends and allies.”

Having underestimated their foes and overestimated their allies, the Palestinians ended up with no peace plan and no significant international denunciation of the American plan, except for the tired old statements from the usual suspects in Iran and the Arab states.

Abbas then held a press conference in New York with Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister of Israel, at which the pair disparaged the Vision for Peace, and Abbas sang the praises of the Olmert plan and lamented the fact that it was no longer on the table.

This, unfortunately, has become something of a pattern in Palestinian diplomacy ever since the creation of Israel in 1948: Reject offers and then regret turning them down when the next offer turns out to be less generous. Their only clear policy has been the squandering of opportunities. As the late Israeli diplomat, scholar and politician Abba Eban put it so memorably: “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Perhaps in a few years’ time Abbas will find himself sitting beside a retired Benjamin Netanyahu, bemoaning the fact that the Palestinians did not take up the Vision for Peace.

Rather than continuing to reject proposals, the Palestinians should produce their own peace deal. It should be a comprehensive vision of how they want to escape the misery and poverty of their current existence.

It should state how much land they need and how many people they envisage settling in this future state. It should outline a budget for building infrastructure and housing and a fund for compensating Palestinians who choose to remain abroad and relinquish their property in Palestine. And it should come with a reasonable, feasible timetable.

Instead of the interminable, inexplicable contradictions, the incomprehensible demands and the endless refusals, it is high time Palestinians started being clear about what they expect from any peace deal.

This article was provided by Syndication Bureau, which holds copyright.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @hahussain.