Hani al-Masri writes in Middle East Eye:
A recent meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has sparked an intense public outcry, deepening Palestinian divisions and pushing the prospect of unity even further beyond our reach.
The meeting last week at Gantz’s home in central Israel angered many, showing the Palestinian president’s willingness to negotiate with a minister responsible for Palestine’s ongoing occupation. It came as Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians have been on the rise, and as Israeli authorities have continued to raid Palestinian territories. It also came as Egyptian-brokered talks between Israel and Hamas appear to have stalled, threatening the resumption of military hostilities.
If that wasn’t enough, Israel has also vociferously rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state and the resumption of the peace process. Rather, Gantz says the purpose of the recent talks was to prevent the outbreak of another war with Hamas. At the same time, the US point person for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hady Amr, has reportedly likened the beleaguered Palestinian Authority (PA) to “a dry forest waiting to catch on fire”.
To understand these developments, we must go back to US President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, after which the PA announced the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian security coordination following a six-month pause. The head of the PA’s General Authority of Civil Affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, described the move as a “victory”, and Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories subsequently affirmed Israel’s ongoing commitment to bilateral agreements.
But to take this statement at face value would be a mistake. During his recent discussions with Gantz, according to informed sources, Abbas requested Israel’s compliance on a variety of points covered by these agreements, including a halt on Israeli army raids in the occupied West Bank and an end to settlement expansion. For his part, Gantz’s hands are stained with Palestinian blood, as the former army chief oversaw the widespread destruction of Gaza in 2014.
The PA has thus chosen to resume negotiations with the occupation amid considerably lowered security and economic expectations, while also offering an olive branch to the US, where the Biden administration has pledged to reopen the American consulate in Jerusalem and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Washington office, and to restore Palestinian aid that was cut during the Trump administration.
The PA’s error lies in its agreement to one-sided concessions, without even the promise of eventual reciprocation from Israel.