Diplomacy

Abbas Scoffs at Kerry’s Efforts to Save Talks, Says Israeli Moves “Scare No One”

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday rejected a request from Secretary of State John Kerry to reverse his position – announced earlier this week at what the Associated Press described as a “hastily convened” press conference – to turn to the United Nations and join 15 international treaties as the “State of Palestine”:

Kerry spoke to both Netanyahu and Abbas from North Africa to appeal to them to reconsider. But Abbas dismissed his warnings about the consequences of pressing ahead with the treaty applications, a Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Kerry warned that “Israel was threatening a strong response to Palestinian actions,” the official said.

But Abbas retorted: “Israel’s threats scare no one. They can do what they like,” the official added.

The expression of bravado comes two days after Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki bragged to reporters that he didn’t “expect any consequences coming from the U.S. Congress… at all” in response to the Palestinians’ diplomatic gambit, which among other things violated commitments made by Ramallah in the context of a nine-month U.S. peace push and, more broadly, under the Oslo Accords. Analysts and journalists have in recent days expressed increasingly public worries regarding Palestinian recklessness.

Veteran Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff assessed the situation last week:

What appears to be an attempt to pressure Israel and the US could easily inflame the Palestinian street, and could push Abbas and the Palestinian leadership once again up a tree from which it would be hard to climb down.

Maintaining the negotiations at this stage is not only in the interest of Israel, but also in the interest of the PA, which knows that erupting anger on the Palestinian street could be directed at Ramallah and Abbas first, even before Israel.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party supports renewed and ongoing negotiations, worried that a list of new Palestinian demands presented yesterday – widely and immediately seen as nonstarters – was evidence that Abbas was working against his interests.

State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Friday that the United States remained committed to pursuing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, though the Washington Post had previously reported that Kerry was likely to “lower the volume and see how things unfold.”

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