THE BLOG
03/05/2014 11:44 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2014

Palestinian's Abbas in for a Fight of His Lifetime in Washington

Palestinians expect their leader to have the fight of his life as he goes to Washington for a tough summit with U.S. President Barack Obama March 17.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to be facing pressure from the U.S. to accept the framework agreement being drawn up by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The agreement will most likely declare Israel as a Jewish state, but it is unclear what it will state as to the long-term presence of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley.

The U.S.-sponsored framework agreement, however, will allow the two parties to continue the talks, if they choose to, without having to sign anything or without being under the legal responsibility of carrying out every item in it.

Unlike the talks held at Camp David in the last days of Bill Clinton's presidency, the Kerry plan does not include an end-the-conflict clause, making it at best another interim agreement without calling it that.

Palestinians, who are against any more interim agreements, have publicly vowed not to continue the talks that are scheduled to be completed by the end of April.

The last stage of the release of pre Oslo Palestinian prisoners is expected in late March, but it is not clear if this latest release will be conditional on Abbas' behaviour at the March 17 White House summit.

Neither is it clear whether this latest prisoner release, for which Palestinian agreed to postpone their applications to join various UN agencies, will be followed (shortly after) by yet another set of new settlement announcements.

Reports in Israel say that in 2013, the Israeli right-wing government approved a vast increase doubling the number of settlements built on occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.

In the best-case scenario, Abbas will partially accept the framework agreement while publicly refusing to accept that Palestinians alone will have to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

This condition was never put on the Egyptians and Jordanians who signed a peace deal with Israel, nor was the UN ever asked to amend Israel's name to be something like the Jewish State of Israel.

Abbas said that his government would recognise any name that is given to Israel at this international body.

The more complicated question facing Abbas is what will happen the day after the scheduled end of the current nine-month peace talks.

Palestinians say they are not under obligation to abstain from joining various UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court at the Hague or the powerful International Telecommunications Union, which is one of the oldest international agencies in the world and which sets standards for all countries in regards to important areas, such as cell phone, radio and TV frequencies.

Palestinian officials have been publicly stating that there are no plans to extend the peace talks.

While these statements have been made by second-tier leaders, Abbas himself has been largely quiet on the topic, leaving it to be understood that an extension of the talks is possible if tangible changes are made on the ground to offset the expected storm of criticism he will face within his own movement, let alone the larger Palestinian body politic.

Some suggest that a further set of long-term prisoners, especially those associated with the PLO, can be helpful in deciding to extend the talks. Others say that Israel must begin transferring areas under its control to the Palestinian government, especially in Area C, where the Israeli army has total control.

Palestinians also insist that a settlement freeze, especially in areas all sides agree will be part of the Palestinian state, is a must.

Another idea that can win over skeptical Palestinians, has to do with the embattled and besieged Gaza Strip.

Lifting the siege on Gaza Strip, now in its seventh year, after a possible return of presidential guards at Rafah and Beit Hanoun crossings would be a major emotional lift to Palestinians and could also help weaken Hamas' stronghold on the strip. Both are U.S., Palestinian and even Israeli hopes.

The Obama administration has been in favour of a contiguous Palestinian stat
e. Allowing movement between the territories mentioned in the Oslo Accords as one unit will go a long way to prove to unconvinced Palestinians that the peace process can produce concrete results.

Such a move might hurt Israel's attempt to isolate Gaza from the West Bank, but it can be done in such as a way that it does not cause any security harm to Israel, while allowing the Palestinian leadership to continue negotiations on the implementations of the framework agreement.

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