Leaving behind the flames sparked by his militant speeches, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is flying to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he will do what he does better than anything else. He will speak before the representatives of the international community and ask for their support—support he has not received from the Palestinian street or the Arab world.
Abbas and his associates in the P.A. leadership are in an unenviable position, with no cards left to play. Turning to the international community won’t help, due to the Trump administration’s unequivocal support for Israel. Though truth be told it’s more than just President Donald Trump and his administration—most of the world has not rejected Trump’s Middle East peace plan, and certainly don’t view it as an excuse to scorch the earth, as Abbas is threatening to do.
In Israel, some officials claim that Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have left the Palestinians with just one option: the path of violence. But Abbas knows this path is destined for failure. He cannot believe that what the Palestinians failed to achieve during the second intifada in the early 2000s, which left more than 1,000 Israelis dead, they can achieve now, against Israel’s military superiority and robust intelligence capabilities.
Therefore, as always, Palestinian leaders are fixating on baseless hopes, which they are pinning on the international community but also on Israeli and the U.S. politics, as elections loom in both countries.
Essentially, the only card Abbas has left, aside from returning to the negotiation table, which he apparently doesn’t consider an option, is threatening to dismantle the P.A. Such a move, however, will drag the Palestinians light-years backward. Conversely, he can threaten violence without truly intending to follow through, but the problem is that the Palestinian street doesn’t always understand the deeper meaning behind their president’s threats. The result could be waves of terror which, although narrower in scope than a full-blown intifada, perhaps, would still entail a steep price—first and foremost for the Palestinians.
Either way, even when no action is taken beyond speeches and statements, inaction has its own dynamic. It is impossible to maintain the P.A. and the Palestinian national movement on the basis of speeches, dreams and election expectations alone.
Ultimately, the P.A. is liable to fall apart. The result will be a stampede of Palestinians towards Israeli citizenship; hence Abbas will go down in history as the man who pushed the Palestinians to become Israelis.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.