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January-03-2018 Displeased with Palestinians

Israel Hayomhttp://www.israelhayom.com/

25 December 2017

Displeased with Palestinians, Arab states chart new Jerusalem policy

Fearing that PA-led moves in response to U.S. Jerusalem declaration will undermine its special status in the city, Jordan teams up with Egypt, Saudi Arabia to devise new policy • Official says Arab states fear U.S. will punish those who act against it.

by Daniel Siryoti

Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are displeased with the way the Palestinian Authority has reacted to U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy to the city, Israel Hayom has learned.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced over the weekend that he would head a new committee, comprising the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudia Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, to devise a new policy on Jerusalem.

Sources in Ramallah, Cairo and Amman told Israel Hayom that the decision to establish the committee was made after it became apparent that the Palestinian Authority's efforts to counter Trump's announcement had been ineffective.

"The decision to establish this committee was, in effect, imposed on the Palestinian Authority by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan in a move that was backed by the Arab League," a senior Jordanian official told Israel Hayom.

"This is a super committee that is headed by the secretary general of the Arab League, and it effectively puts the Arab League in charge of the policy on Jerusalem, taking it away from the Palestinians.

"The Palestinians' efforts to sway public opinion have been a complete failure, and as a result, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has created a rift between us [the Arab world] and Trump. We are once again left with the demagogic, hollow and inflammatory rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

Referring to the non-binding U.N. General Assembly resolution calling on the U.S. to reverse its decision on Jerusalem, the source said, "Washington has made its views clear and said it would take action against those nations that voted against it at the U.N. General Assembly last week. Now, when it is clear Trump is indeed going to punish those that voted against the U.S., most countries are trying to cut their losses."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has been disappointed that only several thousand Palestinians rioted in the wake of Trump's Jerusalem proclamation. Officials in Ramallah have been particularly concerned by the weekly drop in the number of Palestinians protesters in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria.

The Palestinians' doomsday warnings that the decision on Jerusalem would set the region ablaze have failed to materialize and the relative apathy on the Palestinian street has led to a mild response from the Arab world as well, particularly from the moderate Sunni states.

Thus, despite the lip service and the appearance of consensus on Jerusalem in the form of harsh condemnations, the Arab states have avoided taking concrete measures to counter the American declaration.

A senior official in Amman told Israel Hayom that the Palestinians' colossal failure to create a unified Arab front against Trump's Jerusalem decision also has Jordanian officials concerned that the kingdom's status as the custodian of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem will be compromised.

He said the Palestinians have tried to compel the international community to intervene over Jerusalem and its holy sites, including by means of tough rhetoric that the U.S. is no longer welcome to mediate peace talks, but Jordan fears these statements will ultimately backfire.

Senior Palestinian and Jordanian officials have told Israel Hayom that in the wake of the U.S. threats to punish U.N. members who voted against it, Jordanian officials have grown concerned that the U.S., along with Israel, may seize on Abbas' call for international intervention by initiating a move that would undermine the Jordanian status in Jerusalem. Senior Arab officials have gone as far as to urge Abbas to scale back his rhetoric aimed at the international community.

According to a senior Palestinian official, over the past week, Jordan's King Abdullah II has sent high-level envoys to Ramallah to discuss this matter with Palestinians. But officials both in Ramallah and in Amman say that Abbas and his people have not changed their stance, remaining steadfast in the position that the Trump administration should not be allowed to take part in the peace process.

The officials said that PA wanted to embarrass U.S. Vice President Mike Pence by refusing to arrange a meeting between him and Abbas in Bethlehem during his planned visit to the region, which the administration has twice postponed already. The Americans cited an important tax vote as the reason for delaying Pence's trip, but Palestinian officials believe the real reason for the postponement was Abbas' boycott.

"The Americans thought that if they postponed the visit by a few days, things would calm down and that the meeting with Abbas would take place and help calm the violence. But after it became apparent that Abbas would not be meeting Pence, even after the initial delay, the Americans scrapped the December visit altogether," the official said.

A senior Jordanian official said that Arab states are closely monitoring the Palestinians.

"We are very worried that the Palestinians' actions over Jerusalem, their efforts to shun the U.S. from the peace process and their insistence on international intervention, are a double-edged sword that could hurt first and foremost Jordan's status in Jerusalem and could bring about the exact opposite of the intended result: Many more countries could do what the U.S. has done after seeing that the region has not been destabilized and only a few thousand protesters have taken to the streets," the official said.

Meanwhile, an Israeli media report on Sunday claimed that the U.S. will not present a peace plan until the Palestinians resume engaging with the administration. The White House reacted by saying that this report did not reflect anything new and was not newsworthy, and that the U.S. has long maintained that a peace plan would only be presented in coordination with both sides.

A senior White House official told Israel Hayom: "The president remains as committed to peace as ever. We anticipated a temporary cooling-off period so during that time are going to be hard at work putting together our plan, which we will present when it is done and the time is right. As the president has always said, we will not impose a deal on either party; rather we will facilitate an agreement that works for both sides.

"Apparently the outlet that has reported this hasn't been paying attention over the past several months. As we have said over and over again, we will not impose a peace deal. That is not news. We anticipated a cooling-off period and remain as committed to peace as ever and are working hard on our plan, which we will present when the time is right."

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