US envoys Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, who met this week in Jerusalem and Ramallah with Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials to discuss reviving the peace process, have discovered what previous US Middle East envoys learned in the past two decades -- that the PA has not, cannot, and will not change.
During their meeting in Ramallah with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the two US emissaries were told that the Palestinians will not accept anything less than an independent state along on the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Jared Kushner (left), Senior Advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on June 21, 2017 in Ramallah. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
Abbas also made it clear that he has no intention to make concessions on the "right of return" for Palestinian "refugees." This means he wants a Palestinian state next to Israel while flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees" and turning it, too, into another Palestinian state.
At the meeting, Abbas also reiterated his demand that Israel release all Palestinian prisoners, including convicted murderers with Jewish blood on their hands, as part of any peace agreement. The release of terrorists in the past has only resulted in increased terrorism against Israel.
According to Abbas's spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, the PA president told Kushner and Greenblatt that a "just and comprehensive peace should be based on all United Nations resolutions (pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict) and the (2002) Arab Peace Initiative." Translation: Israel must withdraw to the indefensible pre-1967 lines and allow armed Palestinian factions to sit on the hilltops overlooking Ben Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv.
Abbas's position reflects accurately the policy of the PA leadership over the past two decades -- a policy that has been regularly relayed to all previous US administrations, successive Israeli governments and the international community.
To his credit, Abbas has been nothing short of consistent. He has never, ever, displayed a willingness to offer any concessions to Israel. He misses no opportunity to reaffirm his demands to all world leaders and government officials, with whom he meets on a regular basis.
Nonetheless, some in the international community still believe that Abbas or any other Palestinian leader will be able to make concessions in return for peace with Israel.
Incredibly, Kushner and Greenblatt seem to believe that they can succeed where all others have failed.
The two inexperienced US envoys are laboring under the illusion that they will persuade Abbas and the PA leadership to drop demands such as the "right of return," the release of imprisoned terrorists and a cessation of construction in settlements.
Why President Trump's envoys are creating the dangerously misleading impression that peace is possible under the current PA leadership is nothing short of a mystery.
Creating such an impression is likely to boomerang with a vengeance; the higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment. Giving the Palestinians the feeling that the Trump administration holds a magic wand for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will eventually increase Palestinian bitterness and hostility towards both the Americans and Israel. When the Palestinians wake up to the fact that the Trump administration will not strong-arm Israel to its knees, they will resume their rhetorical attacks against Washington, accusing it once again of being "biased" in favor of Israel.
This was precisely the fate of previous US administrations and presidents who disappointed the Palestinians by failing to impose dictates on Israel. The Palestinians are still dreaming of the day that the US or any other superpower would force Israel to comply with all their demands.
When Israel does not comply with their list of demands, the Palestinians will accuse it of "destroying" the peace process.
Worse still, the Palestinians will use this charge as an excuse to redouble their terror attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian claim, as always, will be that they are being forced to resort to terrorism in light of the failure of yet another US-sponsored peace process.
The Trump administration is making a colossal mistake in thinking that Abbas or any of his Palestinian Authority cronies can exhibit any flexibility whatsoever toward Israel, particularly concerning Jerusalem, settlements and the "right of return."
No doubt, Abbas cannot find it within himself to clarify to the American envoys that he lacks a mandate from his people to make any step toward peace with Israel. Abbas knows, even if the American representatives do not, that any move in that direction would end his career, and very possibly his life.
Abbas also does not wish to go down in Palestinian history as the treacherous leader who "sold out to the Jews."
Despite the best intentions of the US envoys and others in the international community, Abbas knows full well the fate of any Palestinian leader who even considers "collaboration" with the "Zionist entity."
Abbas, whose term in office expired in 2009 and is seen as an illegitimate president by many Palestinians, is not even in a position to offer Israel any concessions for peace. First, someone can come along later and say, quite correctly, that as Abbas has exceeded his legitimate term in office, any deal he makes is illegal and illegitimate.
Abbas also cannot halt anti-Israel incitement; he cannot stop payments to convicted murderers and their families and he cannot accept Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Even if some of his aides sometimes come out with statements suggesting that the PA leadership is prepared to consider some concessions on these issues, these remarks should not be taken seriously: they are only intended for Western audiences.
The PA's declared position is that it has already made enough concessions by merely recognizing Israel's right to exist and dropping Palestinian claims to "all of Palestine." This position argues that it is Israel, and not the Palestinians, that needs to make concessions for peace.
"We have reached the red line with regards to making concessions [to Israel]," explained Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA cabinet minister. "We have already made a series of concessions on the core issues, while Israel has not presented us with anything."
It might be recalled that this statement by the former PA official is a staggering lie, given the generous offers, gestures and concessions made by successive Israeli prime ministers and governments over the past two decades.
Again and again, all Israeli initiatives have been met with Palestinian rejectionism and stepped-up violence.
The offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 to withdraw from most of the territories Israel captured in 1967 was met with the Second Intifada.
The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip five years later was misinterpreted by Palestinians as a sign of weakness and retreat, and resulted in thousands of rockets and missiles being fired at Israel.
Another generous and unprecedented offer by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert fell on deaf ears.
The current policy of the Palestinian Authority leadership is to avoid alienating the Trump administration by continuing to pretend that Abbas and his cronies are serious about achieving peace with Israel. This is why Abbas's representatives are careful not to criticize Trump or his envoys.
Abbas wants to deceive the Trump administration into believing that he has the courage, will and mandate to make peace with Israel, the same way he lied to previous Israeli prime ministers. This is the same Abbas who, for the past 10 years, has not been able to even go back to his private residence in the Gaza Strip, which remains under Hamas control.
But in private, some senior Palestinian officials have been criticizing the Trump administration for simply daring to make demands of the PA leadership, such as halting anti-Israel incitement and the payment of salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families. In other words, what the Palestinian officials are saying is that either Trump accepts our demands or he can go to hell.
"The Americans have actually endorsed the Israeli position," complained Hanna Amireh, a senior PLO official.
"The Palestinian leadership rejects the demand to stop financial aid to the prisoners and their families... Instead of setting preconditions for the Palestinians, the Americans must demand an end to Israeli settlement construction and incitement."
In the twisted world of the Palestinian Authority leadership, Israeli demands for an end to the Palestinian glorification of murderers is itself an act of "incitement."
How dare Israel demand that the PA leadership halt funds to imprisoned terrorists and their families? How dare Israel expose incitement and glorification of murderers and terrorists?
The PA leadership simply cannot fathom the problem with naming streets, public squares and youth and women's centers after murderers of Jews.
It is only a matter of time before the PA leadership begins openly to accuse the Trump administration of being biased in favor of Israel. In the world of Abbas and his cronies, any US administration that does not swallow their lies and fabrications is a "hostile" party that is controlled by Jews and Zionists.
This is precisely what the Palestinians said about Trump and his team during the US presidential election campaign.
The PA leadership has indeed softened its tone against Trump and his advisors since they won the election. Yet this modified tone has one goal: for the PA to avoid accusations of being anti-peace.
In fact, the PA leadership has changed its tone, not its tune. We are witnessing a tactical and temporary move on the part of the Palestinians. This play-acting will end soon enough. The question remains, will the West notice that the curtain has gone down on the show?
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.