The Palestinian Authority’s loud and vigorous opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” puts the Palestinians in conflict not only with Israel and the United States, but also with the axis of moderate Sunni Arab states, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The P.A.’s goal is to foil Trump with a coalition consisting of European allies, the United Nations and countries such as Venezuela, a stronghold for Palestinian policies in South America.
The P.A. is pursuing a containment policy, in the anticipation that Trump will lose the upcoming U.S. election. With Trump’s defeat, the P.A. can re-leverage Obama-era policies to strengthen the United Nations, gain “international legitimacy,” once again isolate Israel in the international community and, with the latest U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights report, give BDS the stamp of U.N. legitimacy.
This scenario, however, represents a nightmare for the moderate Sunni states, to whom it is clear that a return to Obama’s policies is also a return to the nuclear agreement with Iran. Such a policy reversal will again leverage Iran and Turkey as regional Islamic powers, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, to the detriment of moderate Sunni Arab states.
Sources in Ramallah related a story about this point of contention in the Arab world.
After Trump won the 2016 election but before he entered the White House (December 2016), an anti-Israel resolution (UNSC Res. 2334) was raised in the U.N. Security Council.
The U.S. administration decided to set a precedent and failed to veto the anti-Israel resolution, which Egypt had submitted to the Security Council. At that moment, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas was visiting Saudi King Salman, and while they were talking, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called from Cairo. He informed King Salman that he had decided to withdraw the anti-Israel resolution.
According to our sources, the King of Saudi Arabia said to el-Sisi in Arabic: Allah yisahel aleik, essentially saying, “Do as you wish.” Abbas, disappointed that the Saudis were not encouraging the resolution, interrupted the phone conversation and implored el-Sisi, “At least ask Trump not to move the embassy to Jerusalem.”
El-Sisi answered: “We are with Trump.”
“We are with Trump” is the headline of Arab policy to date; the P.A.’s current anti-Trump policy conflicts with the fundamental interests of Arab states.
Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and “Al Hamishmar” newspaper. He currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.