Israel: Peace Not Possible Until Abbas, ‘In the 16th year of His Four-Year Term,’ Steps Down

Patrick Goodenough | February 12, 2020 | 4:59am EST
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 Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Security Council on Tuesday. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Security Council on Tuesday. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

( – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday took his complaints about President Trump’s Mideast peace plan to the U.N. Security Council, where Israel’s ambassador questioned the possibility of achieving a settlement with a recalcitrant leader “in the 16th year of his four-year term.”

In a 35-minute statement, Abbas reaffirmed his opposition to the Trump proposal, telling the council the plan’s position on Jerusalem alone was enough to merit its rejection.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon pushed back, arguing that the U.S. plan was different in that it “refuses to accept that the only way to solve the conflict is with a formula that has failed for over 70 years.”

He compared Abbas unfavorably with Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat, who signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, and with Jordan’s King Hussein, who made peace with Israel in 1994.

He noted that Sadat had broken a deadlock by traveling to Jerusalem to address the Knesset, and Hussein had gone to Washington to sign a declaration with Israel that led to a full peace treaty just three months later.

If Abbas was serious about peace, Danon said, he would not be yet again at the U.N. in New York, but in Jerusalem or Washington, negotiating for a peaceful solution.

“But President Abbas is not serious about negotiations or about peace. Instead he did what he always does: He came here to distract from his unwillingness to negotiate.”

“Complaining instead of leading, that is not leadership,” said Danon. “That was his way when he took office, and that remains his way today, in the 16th year of his four-year term.”

Abbas, 84, continues to hold – and be accorded by the U.N. – the title of “president of the State of Palestine,” more than a decade after his four-year mandate expired in January 2009.

In the run-up to the expiration, Abbas issued a decree “extending” his tenure for one year. Amid an ongoing rift between his Fatah faction and Hamas, the rescheduled presidential elections were then postponed indefinitely, also by decree. There have been no elections since.

“Let’s not beat around the bush,” Danon told the council. “Progress towards peace will not be made as long as President Abbas remains in his position. This is the reality. Only when he steps down can Israel and the Palestinians move forward. A leader who chooses rejectionism, incitement and glorification of terror can never be a real partner for real peace.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he was “completely appalled” by the “egregious” and “alarming” comments about Abbas.

Gheit, a former foreign minister in Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year regime in Egypt, said he was convinced that Abbas’ positions reflected those of the Palestinian people – what he would not accept, they would not accept.

‘Not set in stone’

Tuesday’s meeting did not include a vote on a Palestinian-drafted resolution rejecting the Trump plan, although Palestinian officials denied reports they had pulled the plan after it became evident the measure would not attract the nine votes needed to pass in the 15-member council. (Even if the nine votes were assured, the U.S. would likely have wielded its veto to kill the resolution.)

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres started the meeting by saying this was “a time for dialogue” – but also essentially rejected the Trump plan by reiterating that the U.N. position remains a goal of a Palestinian state based on the “1967 lines.”

The “1967 lines” are the armistice lines from 1949 which remained in place up until the outbreak of the Six Day War in June 1967. A Palestinian state based on those boundaries would incorporate the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza Strip.

Under Trump’s proposal, Israel would retain sovereignty over blocs of Israeli cities and towns (“settlements”) built on disputed territory as well as the strategic Jordan Valley. A demilitarized Palestinian state would comprise the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank, with non-contiguous territory connected by roads, bridges, and tunnels. It would include parts, but not all, of eastern Jerusalem, where its capital would be located.


Abbas derided the envisaged state as akin to “Swiss cheese,” and said that because the proposal does not place all of East Jerusalem under Palestinian sovereignty, “that alone is enough for us to reject this plan.”

The Palestinians opposed the plan, he said, and “will confront its application on the ground.”

The administration has stressed that the peace vision is a starting point for negotiations, not the U.S. dictating an end game.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft made the point again on Tuesday.

“It is not set in stone,” she said. “Rather, it is an opening offer. It is the beginning of a conversation – not the end of one.”

But Abbas stated, “This plan, or any part of it, should not be considered as an international reference for negotiations.”


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