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Tearing Oslo Accords Apart Won't Serve PLO's Interest to Keep Control Over West Bank – Scholar

© AFP 2023 / FADI AROURIPalestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-back) chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-back) chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah - Sputnik International
Donald Trump is expected to reveal his Middle Eastern plan on 28 January, prompting concerns on the part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which has reportedly threatened to unilaterally tear the Oslo Accords apart once the deal is released. International Mideast experts have weighed up whether the PLO will fulfil its threat.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz arrived in Washington to discuss the much anticipated "deal of the century" with Donald Trump. It is expected that on Tuesday, the US president will shed light on the deal while delivering joint remarks with the Israeli prime minister.

Earlier, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) reportedly warned that it would reserve the right to withdraw from the Oslo agreements if Trump releases his "peace plan" on the settlement of the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 and 1995 between the government of Israel and the PLO, establishing "the general guidelines for the negotiations to come and lays the foundations for a Palestinian interim self-government in the West Bank and Gaza".

Dr Harel Chorev, head of the Desk for Middle Eastern Network Analysis at the Dayan Centre, insists that it is highly unlikely that the PLO will walk the talk.

"They may protest, they will initiate diplomatic campaigns to explain their rejection - as it seems now - of Trump's plan, they might allow popular protest in the West Bank and even halt for a while the security coordination with Israel. However, they will not withdraw from the agreements or dismantle the PA, as they are threatening every now and then", he foresees.

According to the scholar, the main reason is that "it will not serve their interest to keep their control over the West Bank and in fact over the Palestinian problem as a whole". He suggests that Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, is aware "that extreme actions may put the PA at risk by creating political vacuum and weakness that the consequences are not necessarily predictable", especially when Hamas, a militant organisation designated by Israel as a terrorist group, "is always waiting around the corner for the PA [to] stumble".

Amatzia Baram, professor at the University of Haifa, echoes Chorev by saying that the PLO is unlikely to fulfil its threat, since "a mere declaration does not justify such an extreme reaction".

"More likely: the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) will wait to see whether the Israeli government is actually annexing the Jordan Valley and large Jewish settlements", the professor says. "It is also far from certain that the government will do this. If PM Netanyahu declares the annexation before the March elections, the Palestinian leaders will end all the security cooperation with Israel. This will be a partial, though not complete, withdrawal from Oslo".

For his part, Daniel Pipes, an American historian, writer, and commentator, argues that Palestinian Arab leaders who constantly threaten to tear the Oslo agreements apart have "two major implications".

•             First, "it confirms that actually controlling territory and building a proto-state of Palestine matters far less to them than continuing the effort to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel".

•             Second, "the willingness to undo the PA and put Palestinians back under Israeli rule points to […] a complete lack of concern for their subject population".

Dr Michael Barak, a researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, says the Palestinian Authority is not interested in being part of Trump's deal, and cannot accept it, as the PA is convinced the US President is "only serving Israeli interests" and "neglecting the Palestinian side".

According to him, abolishing the Oslo accords may lead to several consequences: including the cancellation of security coordination with the Israelis and warns that the PA could announce the establishment of a Palestinian state, urge the international community to recognise it, appeal to the UN to impose sanctions on Israel on the grounds that Tel Aviv is violating international law, and declare East Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state, asking Turkey and Qatar, among others, to approve it.

The content of Trump's peace deal is still shrouded in secrecy, except for its economic part that pledges to invest $50 billion in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab countries. The deal also proposes the construction of a transport corridor between the PNA-controlled West Bank and the Gaza Strip for an additional $5 billion.

According to some reports, the deal confirms Israel's sovereignty over some 40 percent of the West Bank, called by the UN "occupied" Palestinian territories. In exchange, Palestinian Arabs will reportedly be given territories in the Negev Desert located in the south of Israel. The West Bank territories, also known as Judea and Samaria, were captured from Jordan by Israel as a result of the Six-Day Way in 1967. Before that, Jordan occupied these territories in 1948 as part of the 1947-49 Palestine War that was unleashed by a coalition of Arab countries on Israel.

It was also reported that the deal will allow Palestinian Arabs to form an independent state four years after the agreement is inked on the condition that they won't establish a military force in the West Bank and Gaza.

The PLO eyes Trump's Middle East initiative with suspicion after the White House recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and stated that Jewish settlements in the West Bank do not contradict international law.

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