Ilan Pomeranc

Something’s Brewing on the DC-Amman-Ramallah Route

It has been quite a revealing last few days.  Prime Minister Naftali Bennet declared on the floor of the Knesset Monday that there are no negotiations being held to establish a “terror state in the heartland of Israel”.  A day later, in complete contrast to that statement, news broke that MK and coalition government member Mansour Abbas, met with King Abdullah of Jordan at his palace in Amman, and one of the main topics discussed was precisely the situation in Judea and Samaria.

As if to qualify the PM’s earlier statement on the floor of the Knesset, the Jordanians, according to Israel KAN 11 news, then made sure to “clarify” to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, that reports by Amman’s official news agency that the “peace process” and the situation of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria were discussed in the sit down ‘did not reflect the content’ of the meeting between MK Abbas and King Abdullah- whatever that means.  The following day, Wednesday November 10, MK Abbas went even further and stated that a US consulate to the Palestinian Authority should absolutely be opened in Israel’s 3,000 year old and flourishing capital Jerusalem.

This event and the back and forth that came with it would in and of themselves indicate a lot about what is going on behind the scenes between Jerusalem, Amman, and the Arab leadership in Ramallah. In actuality, all this has transpired in addition to a number of other statements and events surrounding relations between the parties as well as with the US in the last few days and weeks.  Its seems that now that the current Israeli coalition government has gotten over what was in many of it’s members eyes the main hurdle to it’s stability, i.e. the state budget, the left of center and far left elements of the coalition feel more comfortable making bolder moves in line with their ideological goals.

The fog surrounding the Abbas-Abdullah meeting in Amman, is an indicator either of true rifts starting to form within the makeshift coalition government in Israel or that the formerly right wing elements of that coalition are exploiting the convenient excuse that the coalition’s left wing elements are acting independently at times or are merely playing to their base, while in fact both wings of the government are coordinated and in agreement.  The later seems more likely given that these developments are the latest in a series of events exposing efforts by the current Israeli Government to return relevance both to Mahmoud Abbas himself and to the concept of high level contacts with, and unreciprocated gestures toward, officials in Ramallah.

This week Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid- after the fiasco of signaling to the Americans during his visit to Washington DC in October that they had a tacit green light to establish an official consulate to service the Palestinian Authority in the heart of Israel’s capital Jerusalem- met with a delegation comprised of J-Street activists and lawmakers from the US Democratic party, specifically its progressive wing, a number of whom have been consistently bias against and even inherently hostile toward Israel and it’s interests.  J-Street, brought to the forefront and empowered by the Obama administration, holds radical leftist positions far outside the Israeli consensus as is widely known.

Therefore while FM Lapid as well as Meretz and Labor party coalition members met with J-Street members, PM Bennet only met with the Liberal-Progressive congress members as it seems hosting J-Street would have been a step to far even for him at this point.  Those progressive American lawmakers in any case are unlikely to change their attitude or actions vis a vis Israel despite PM Bennet’s openness to meet with them; which in actuality simply provides them and their fellow travelers a faux defense when called out for their bias, double standard, and hostility toward the State of Israel.  The congress members also travelled to Ramallah and met officials there as part of their trip, reinvigorating what was the irrelevant and fairly dormant coupling of diplomatic activities concerning Israel to the Palestinian Authority.

A coupling which the previous Israeli Government was so successful at mitigating.  The delegation’s visit also comes on the heels of reports that the Biden Administration is interested in and working towards a unity government between Hamas and the factions under Mahmoud Abbas’ control.  The US administration’s strategy is simple and the goals as clear as day.  With an Israeli Prime Minister beholden to his leftist, far leftist, and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated coalition partners as well as ideologically influenced by them [all the more so given the erasure of his right of center voter base and desire to find a new one amongst the center-left], and Mr. Lapid basically in total control of Israel’s foreign policy, the US administration along with the Western European powers see an opportunity to return to promoting the setting up of what would be another corrupt and artificial failed state in the Middle East this time in the heartland of the Land of Israel.

The string of meetings between high ranking Israeli government ministers and PA President Mahmoud Abbas including Defense Minister Gantz in recent months, along with Israeli government approval for significant Arab building in Area C- fully controlled by Israel- and legalizing the status of thousands of undocumented and unregistered Arabs in Judea and Samaria many from Gaza and overseas [exacerbating the much bigger problem of manipulated and blatantly false Arab population figures for the area] have by design served to resuscitate and empower the Palestinian Authority.  This is a body that was on the sidelines of everything of consequence and importance going on in the region recently with the results speaking for themselves- the official normalization of relations between Israel and four Arab states, and what looks like the potential for Iran to be weakened, or at least challenged more effectively by the moderate Sunni Arab states, in Syria and Lebanon.  This goodwill toward the PA has in turn brought them back to the fore as a perceived legitimate partner and player in the context of the situation in Judea and Samaria.  Part of the failed but still desperately clung onto vision of the Israeli left and more marginal self-destructive post-Zionist intelligentsia; namely of an independent, state level, democratic and functioning Arab entity in Israel’s heartland . Hence the feeling amongst the Americans and Western Europeans that they can take bolder steps and even attempt to sideline the momentum and nature of the Abraham Accords- which demonstrated that the so called “Palestinian Issue” was not the key to unlocking peace and prosperity between Israel and its Arab cousins.  So now we see the calls for a unity government between Fatah and Hamas and a re-linkage of Gaza and Judea and Samaria as a monolith when they have been, and in fact are, issues that are geographically, politically, socially, economically, and geo-strategically bifurcated.

This more and more apparent shift on the Palestinian Authority and its role by the current Israeli government has wider consequences as well.  The cooperation with Jordan on the subject-along with moves such as vastly increasing water supplies to the Jordanians at what are essentially subsidized prices, while Jordan continues to aggressively and relentlessly bash Israel on the diplomatic stage and in international media for self serving purposes, has begun to alter Israel’s position in terms of the different camps within the Arab world.  There is no love lost between Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and Israel was on track to have the Saudis join the Abraham Accords or at the very least begin normalization in earnest.

That was before the new Bennet-Lapid government came to power and started to re-introduce the Palestinian Authority onto the the geo-political scene in the region and give concessions to the Jordanians returning them to a prominent position as well.  Saudi Arabia of course cannot be viewed as being less committed to the “Palestinian cause” than an Israel actively engaged with Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. Therefore the Saudis will now not be quick to make major moves in terms of their relationship with Israel without some sort of movement in relation to the PA and the perceived situation of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria. Potential cooperation with the Saudis on neutralizing the damaging and dangerous attempts by Turkish President Erdogan to gain influence in the workings of the Islamic institutions and amongst the Arab populace in Jerusalem was hinted at as well during the tenure of PM Netanyahu.

Jordan’s role in the Waqf and the goings on amongst the Arab community of the capital-often times serving to inflame tensions and points of friction in the city- was also potentially to be reduced with a new role for the Saudi’s in its place before the new government took control in Israel.  The actions of the US have also contributed to this delay in Saudi Arabia officially joining the Abraham Accords, as the renewed US interest and focus on contacts and progress between Israel and the PA pose the same challenge and risks to the Saudis of being portrayed as actively indifferent to the matter and\or somehow less devoted to an Arab collective than westerners.  That is without even delving into the problem put before the Saudis of the tectonic shift created by joining the Accords and all the domestic and wider Islamic world risks and consequences it incurs by doing so, while at the same time the Americans are openly and loudly critical of the Crown Prince and Saudi defense and foreign policy particularly in Yemen and in relation to the Khassogi affair.  Combined these factors are too disrupting for the Saudis to move as quickly as they were in making public and official their relations with Israel if at all for the time being.

And so, due to the misguided policies and maneuvering led by Foreign Minister Lapid, backed up by Defense Minister Gantz, and at the very least tolerated by Prime Minister Bennet, Israel is regressing when it comes to its diplomatic breakthroughs in the region and the successful neutralization of one of it’s main threats, the creation of a failed terror state and an Iranian forward operating base in Judea and Samaria.  These policies and the ideology which accompanies them, failed time and again from their initial implementation in the early 1990’s, to their inherent defects being showcased once more under the Israeli governments of  former PM’s Barak and Olmert.

The unprecedented terrorism during the Second Intifada and later the rocket barrages that came in the wake of these policies being implemented, cost hundreds and hundreds of Israeli lives with thousands more wounded and still thousands more mentally and psychologically scarred for life in two decades of unrelenting Jihad emanating from Gaza and Judea and Samaria. The tragedy was compounded by the pointless peace offers made by Barak and Olmert which only served to legitimize the false claims and the false narratives of the enemy in the eyes of many across the globe, and which were rejected regardless of how appeasing or self-damaging they were.  Now the current Israeli government is unfortunately on course to repeat the mistakes of the past and bring back those bad old days of  ‘painful sacrifices for peace’ or worse G-d forbid, ‘the victims\martyrs of peace’, and now for the first time, to potentially derail the momentous and historic reconciliation and fruitful partnerships that the Abraham Accords still have to provide.

About the Author
Ilan is the third generation of a family owned and operated real estate business based in the US and focused on the hotel industry. In addition he is involved in the technology financing sector in Israel. Ilan voluntarily advises and works with Christian Zionist and Israel supporting Noahide groups, as well as with Israel advocacy related causes in general.
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