Abbas was smart to abandon Hamas prior to Biden’s arrival

When the Abraham Accords were finalized on the White House lawn in mid-September, The Palestinian Authority swiftly condemned the peace. Abbas and his aides proceeded to lambast the UAE and called their normalization with Israel “the ultimate betrayal of Palestinians”. Fatah then renewed their ties with Hamas, calling for new elections and unification between the rival factions. However, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority released a statement last week stating that they would be accepting tax credits from Israel, and, work on security issues with Israel in the West Bank. Hamas was enraged by this response. This will likely put Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks on hold. There are several reasons why the PA and Abbas have re-established diplomatic relations with Israel.

Incoming Biden Presidency

It is no secret that the Palestinian leadership was frustrated with Trump’s Pro-Israel approach. President-elect Joe Biden, on the other hand, has a vastly different approach to the Palestinian issue than his predecessor. Biden played a vital role in orchestrating the 2014 “Kerry Doctrine” which included a future Palestinian state. However, Mahmoud Abbas rejected the deal. Joe Biden, a pro-Israel Democrat himself, has shown a willingness to at least court some of the demands the Palestinian Authority may have. But in order for the Palestinian government to capitalize on Biden’s familiarity with the conflict, it is crucial that the Palestinian Authority have some level of diplomacy with the Israeli’s. Not only does it provide the West Bank with a level of stability, but it would also demonstrate to Washington that they are, to a certain degree, interested in peace. Furthermore, it would be unlikely that Biden and his team would engage the Palestinian’s on peace had Ramallah been keen on establishing warmer relations with Hamas. Ultimately, the PA made the right decision in distancing themselves from the terror group and finding common ground with Tel Aviv. These recent developments are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, even if this was Abbas’s plan all along.

Reconnecting with Traditional Arab Allies

Following the finalization of the Abraham Accords, the Palestinian Authority quickly entered unification talks with Hamas. These discussions were courted by Turkey and Qatar. The PA’s engagement with the former drew the ire of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Amman privately expressed a deep concern for the PA’s actions. They felt as if Ramallah was hurting their cause by reproaching Hamas, Turkey, and Qatar. By doing so, the Palestinian leadership had isolated themselves from their allies. However, Abbas made the correct decision in distancing Fatah from like likes of Hamas, Qatar, and Turkey. Now, with the Palestinian Authority and Israel cooperating on security, this will allow the Palestinian’s to potentially enter the good graces of their traditional allies. Abbas was smart to recognize that a reset in Washington should warrant a new strategy from the Palestinian Authority. Had Ramallah continued on its prior path, it would have caused significant damage to their already strained relations with their Sunni allies.

Conclusion

Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO have always had on-and-off relations with Hamas. So, seeing their reconciliation talks falter in under three months is no surprise to anyone. Nonetheless, what makes this different from years past is the fact that the world has changed so much since COVID-19’s ruthless assault on everyday life. Given the civil unrest in the United States and its dire circumstances with COVID-19, it is unlikely that the Biden administration will prioritize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, the new administration may lean on the likes of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to guide the Palestinian’s in formulating a comprehensive resolution to the conflict. However, this could only be achieved if the Palestinian’s and their allies share warm relations. The recent developments out of the West Bank suggest that the Palestinian leadership seems ready to listen to its allies. Only time will tell if Abbas will continue on his newfound course.

About the Author
My name is Abdelhalim Abdelrahman. I am a Palestinian American who was born and raised in Taylor, Michigan in the United States. In 2019, I graduated from Michigan State University with a dual degree in International Relations and Political Theory of Constitutional Democracy. I am a former Constituent Relations Director at the U.S Michigan House of Representatives.
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