US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday that the Trump administration is softening its position on the West Bank settlements, saying they were no longer inconsistent with the international law.
Although the move was met with a lot of applaud from high-ranking Israeli politicians, it caused an uproar in the Palestinian Authority, with President Abbas issuing a statement calling the US announcement "null, void and totally contrary to the international law".
No Fair Game
Mohammed Najib, a Ramallah-based political analyst, believes the announcement is just another move in the series of steps that will eventually lead to the disqualification of the US as an independent negotiator.
"First they (the US administration - ed.) recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, then they recognized Israel's grip over the Golan Heights and now they scrap decades-long position of previous US governments. What's next? Annexation of the West Bank to Israel," he said, adding that the move might spell trouble to the already unstable notion of the two-state solution and a potential peace plan.
Yet, US President Donald Trump is still determined to roll out his "deal of the century" that presupposes concessions from both Israelis and the Palestinians in exchange for a series of financial and diplomatic benefits. The announcement of the initiative's details has been postponed several times due to political instability and the lack of government in Israel. With just one day left for the Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz to form a government, chances that another round of general elections - for a third time in a year - is looming.
Now, however, given the US support to Netanyahu's right-wing policies, doubts run high as to whether the US administration will be able to mediate between the rival parties, bringing them to the negotiating table.
"The Palestinians can no longer accept the US as a fair mediator or sponsor of peace, as they have a biased approach to the conflict," said Najib.
According to the September poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 83 percent of Palestinians reject the US peace plan and Washington's involvement in the peace process.
New Mediator Needed
It is because of this reason that the Palestinians, believes the expert, might try their luck elsewhere, approaching China, Russia and the EU.
The EU has already issued a statement condemning the US move and sticking to its original policy that considers all settlements in the West Bank illegal. Russian Foreign Ministry has also expressed its opinion, saying its stance on the matter remained unchanged.
"Unchanged" will also remain the approach of the general Palestinian public. "Palestinians will never be able to accept the legality of settlements in the West Bank. What this means is that we are more than likely to see various rallies and demonstrations across the West Bank and potentially - clashes with the Israel Defense Forces," he added.
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