Instead of welcoming President Donald Trump's peace plan, designed to give the Palestinians a prosperous future, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected and denounced it as the "deal of shame" and "slap of the century." Pictured: Abbas denouncing the peace plan in Ramallah on January 28, 2020. (Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump's "Peace to Prosperity" plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians offers hope to the two million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Hamas for more than a decade.
Instead of welcoming the plan, designed to give the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip a prosperous future, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected and denounced it as the "deal of shame" and "slap of the century."
Worse, Abbas has chosen to renew his ties with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the two Iranian-backed groups that are opposed to his policies and have regularly condemned his policies and decisions.
Abbas, in other words, is acting not only against the interests of his people in the Gaza Strip, but also against himself by engaging the same groups that have long been seeking to undermine his rule.
By rejecting Abbas Trump's plan, Abbas is denying the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip the chance of improving their living conditions.
Hamas and Iran have no plans to boost the economy in the Gaza Strip. They also have no intention of creating jobs for thousands of unemployed Palestinians. The only plan Hamas, PIJ and their patrons in Tehran have is one that will bring more suffering and bloodshed to the Palestinians. That, however, does not seem to bother Abbas, who is now seeking to appease Hamas and PIJ.
As the Peace to Prosperity plan accurately points out:
"The people of Gaza have suffered for too long under the repressive rule of Hamas. They have been exploited as hostages and human shields, and bullied into submission. Hamas has failed the people of Gaza and has diverted money belonging to the Palestinians of Gaza, including funds provided by international donors, to attack the State of Israel, instead of using these funds to improve the lives of the people of Gaza. Under the leadership of Hamas, the residents of Gaza have suffered extreme poverty and deprivation. After years of no progress, the donor community is fatigued and reluctant to make additional investments so long as the governance structure in Gaza is run by terrorists who provoke confrontations that lead to more destruction and suffering."
The plan further requires Hamas and PIJ to disarm and calls for the return of Abbas's PA to rule the Gaza Strip.
In fact, the wording of Trump's plan is quite compatible with the position of Abbas and his PA officials in the West Bank.
In 2014, Abbas held Hamas responsible for the failure of the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of Israel's Operation Protective Edge, which was in response to the launching of rockets towards Israel.
In 2018, Abbas held Hamas responsible for the bombing of the convoy of former PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the northern Gaza Strip and threatened to take punitive measures against the terror group. He also repeated his demand that Hamas allow the PA to assume its full responsibilities over the Gaza Strip -- exactly as Trump's plan envisages.
Last year, Abbas stepped up his attacks against Hamas by accusing it of working for Israel, and not the Palestinians. He also accused Hamas of obstructing Egyptian efforts to achieve reconciliation with his ruling Fatah faction and end the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Abbas's animosity to Hamas has even prompted him to oppose Israeli gestures to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by initiating various projects to improve the infrastructure there and create job opportunities.
Senior Abbas advisers such as Azzam al-Ahmed have also been launching scathing attacks on Hamas. Ahmed even used the same words as the Trump plan when he accused Hamas of "kidnapping" the Gaza Strip and holding its people hostage.
Abbas evidently shares the same views of the Trump plan regarding the Gaza Strip and Hamas. He too has endorsed an Egyptian proposal to disarm Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip to pave the way for the return of his PA there.
Yet, Abbas now seems to be moving in the opposite direction of his declared policy. On the day Trump released his peace vision, Abbas invited Hamas representatives to an "emergency" meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to discuss ways of thwarting the plan.
The Hamas representatives invited by Abbas included Ayman Daraghmeh, Nasser Eddin al-Shaer, Samir Abu Eisheh, Ahmed Atoun, Omar Abdel Razek and Ali al-Sartawi.
Hamas leaders have welcomed Abbas's move and invited him to visit the Gaza Strip as soon as possible to discuss ways of working together to foil Trump's "plot."
Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said in response to Abbas's initiative that the Palestinians are "united in confronting Israel with one rifle and one revolution."
Shortly before the unveiling of the Trump vision, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh phoned Abbas and offered to cooperate in efforts to foil the plan.
Abbas has also decided to dispatch a delegation of his Fatah faction to the Gaza Strip next week to hold talks with Hamas and other Palestinian groups about devising a joint strategy to thwart the Trump plan.
Abbas has threatened to renounce all signed agreements with Israel in response to the Trump plan, which he claims is aimed at "liquidating the Palestinian cause."
By forging an alliance with Hamas, a terror group that does not recognize Israel's right to exist, Abbas is already signaling his readiness to join forces with those who oppose any peace process with Israel. Such an alliance effectively places Abbas on the side of Iran and its Hamas and PIJ proxies.
In addition, Abbas's repeated threats to halt security coordination with Israel is tantamount to committing suicide. The security coordination benefits Abbas much more than it benefits Israel. Abbas knows that without Israel's presence in the West Bank, he and his government would be eaten alive by Hamas.
Abbas and Hamas may renew their relations in the near future, but it will be the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip who will suffer, condemned by their leaders to poverty and misery.
Remarkably, without showing a trace of irony, Abbas is rejecting a plan to disarm his own enemies who expelled his government from the Gaza Strip in 2007 and have since been killing, arresting and persecuting his loyalists.
In their response to the "Peace to Prosperity" plan, Palestinian leaders have once again succeeded in what they do best: taking any hope for the wellbeing of their people and driving it straight into the ground.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.