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March 19, 2018 12:08 pm

Key Arab States Reportedly Pressuring PA President Mahmoud Abbas to Cooperate With Trump Peace Effort

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in Ramallah, Jan. 14, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are leaning heavily on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cooperate with American efforts to restart peace talks with Israel, several Arab media outlets reported over the weekend.

The Palestinian newspaper al-Quds reported that both countries were pressuring Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah not to dismiss US President’s Donald Trump’s much-vaunted “deal of the century” out of hand.

Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Khaleej newspaper quoted a senior Palestinian source saying that Saudi Arabia was trying to convince Abbas to agree to the American plan, and that its most recent suggestion was to try and persuade President Trump to postpone the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, currently scheduled to take place on May 14 — the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia has offered to establish a five-member council — composed of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel — to discuss the issues that the Palestinians find most problematic in Trump’s proposals. Saudi Arabia is also reported to be prepared to assist in resolving the current financial crisis facing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency that caters to the five million descendants of the Arab refugees of the 1948 war.

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The London-based outlet al-Araby al-Jadeed reported that at the beginning of March, embattled White House adviser Jared Kushner secretly visited Cairo and met with Egyptian intelligence chief and director of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office, Abbas Kamal, to discuss Jordanian objections to the proposals. Sisi is also said to have discussed Jordan’s concerns with Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki, shortly after Kushner’s visit.

In an analysis of these developments, Yoni Ben Menachem, of Israeli think tank the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, expressed skepticism that Abbas would comply with Arab entreaties. The Palestinian president “is seeking to end his political career with a ‘national achievement,’ that would compensate for his failures,” Ben Menachem argued.  “From his point of view, rejecting the American plan outright and withstanding the pressures upon him are his greatest achievement as Palestinian leader.”

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