Arab League rejects Trump peace plan. Abbas defiant. But my Arab sources say you have to read the tea leaves more closely to understand what’s really going on. Let me explain.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — The Arab League met in Cairo on Saturday and unanimously voted to reject the White House peace plan.

Critics will no doubt seize this as proof that the U.S.-led peace process is dead and buried. But my sources in the Arab world tell me nothing could be further from the truth. Let me explain. 

In a joint statement, the Arab foreign ministers called the plan “unfair,” adding that the League “rejects the US-Israeli ‘deal of the century’ considering that it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.”

“I reject this plan outright,” a defiant Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared. “I will not go down in history as the man who sold Jerusalem.”

“The Americans called and said that Trump wants to send me the plan so that I may read it,” Abbas added. “I refused.”

Abbas told the League he “even refused to get a copy of the plan in advance,” reported Axios.

That said, don’t make the mistake that many Western journalists, editors and headline writers are making that the entire Arab world is against the White House efforts to advance peace. Actually, the contrary is true.

I’ve been in touch with a half dozen very senior Arab officials and I’m hearing a far more nuanced narrative.

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  • Yes, they say, Arab governments have significant disagreements with the Trump plan and certainly would not have written it the same way.
  • Yes, the Arab world supports the Palestinian people, and will continue to do so.
  • Yes, they believe that the plan, as drafted, is too tilted towards Israeli interests — some believe the timing of the release indicates it is really designed to help Netanyahu get re-elected.
  • And yes, they are quite upset by talk of immediate and unilateral annexation of settlements and other territory by Israel.
  • But no, they insist, they’re not rejecting White House efforts — indeed, they say they welcome the two-state language in the plan, and the proposed capital for the Palestinians in part of East Jerusalem, though they say it’s not nearly enough. However, they also say they see some truly original and creative thinking in the plan and tell me this should be developed and built upon.
  • No, they’re not happy with Abbas — to the contrary, they’re deeply frustrated with him and his eternal intransigence to any and every peace plan and all new ideas.
  • No, they’re not interested in prolonging the conflict with Israel — indeed, they’re exhausted by it. I can confirm that a number of Arab governments are actively considering ways to continue engaging with Israel step by step, and finding ways to move towards peace with the Jewish state, even if Abbas is unwilling to do so.
  • And no, not all of these Arab leaders are feeling pessimistic — in fact, some of their governments are actually quite optimistic about the prospects for peace, and even see Abbas’ rejection as an opportunity for them to consider making full peace treaties with the State of Israel.

Bottom line: Don’t read too much into the Arab League vote. It does reflect a part of what leaders in the region are thinking, but only a part. Stay tuned, and keep praying for peace.

(Photo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses Arab journalists in Ramallah on July 3. Photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS/ Jerusalem Post)

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