Monday, Nov. 21, Jordan's King Abdullah II arrived in Ramallah at very short notice for his first visit in more than a decade. He came wearing two hats – one for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates and one for the Obama administration. His talks with the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority will cover Mahmoud Abbas' approaching reconciliation with the rival Hamas and an attempt to revive the stalled Israel-Palestinian peace dialogue.
debkafile's Washington sources report that the Jordanian King is on a mission for the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel to pull Abbas back to stable relations with Washington before he crosses the brink and aligns the Palestinian Authority with the fundamentalist Hamas. In the light of imminent events in Syria, this step will take the PA across the Middle East divide and place it in the Iranian-Syrian Middle East orbit.
US Undersecretary of State William Burns called on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Monday, Nov. 21, after visiting Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Sunday to warn Palestinian leaders against further moves towards appeasing Hamas after Abbas offered to fire Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in favor of a Hamas appointee.
Burns warned Abbas that if he goes through with this move the US followed by West Europe will sever ties with the Palestinian Authority. He will not be forgiven for hitching his cart to Hamas, thereby strengthening the hand of Syria's Bashar Assad and enhancing Iranian influence with the Palestinians at the most crucial peak of the West's confrontation with Damascus.
The American envoy offered the Palestinian leader a last chance to save his people from this dangerous course: Invite King Abdullah to Ramallah and inform him – not Washington – that the PA had chosen to resume negotiations with Israel, a choice which would automatically freeze his evolving ties with Hamas.
Washington reckoned that the dramatic impact of the royal visit to the West Bank would sway Palestinian opinion into accepting an alliance with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States as preferable to the Hamas option.
Burns left Ramallah without a final answer. But soon after, Palestinian sources let it be known that Abbas had never sought Fayyad's departure or ever wanted him replaced by a Hamas candidate.
These leaks Sunday night were taken to mean that Abbas was beginning to step back from his high-speed rapprochement with Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based political chief of Hamas. Abdullah's visit to Ramallah will determine if he is willing to go all the way.
The pro-American Jordanian king, who is backed politically and militarily by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates and Turkey, emerged in the last week or two as the unified Arab spokesman on the Syrian crisis.
He was the first Arab ruler in a BBC interview broadcast Monday, Nov. 11to tell Bashar Assad publicly to resign. While the Saudis and Qataris steered the Arab League into suspending Syria and arm anti-Assad rebels, they chose Jordan's Abdullah to be the public voice representing the League consensus on Syria to the Arab world.
The day after Abdullah told Assad to go, the "Free Syrian Army" launched its first organized attacks on Assad's military command centers, government facilities and party headquarters in and around Damascus.
This was no chance happening. The Arab world backed by the West is piling on the diplomatic, economic and military pressure to force the Assad regime into breaking point. It is fully coordinated with Israel's Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu and will be redoubled in the coming days.
Factored into this squeeze on Assad were the warnings Israel's chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz twice addressed to the Hamas rulers of Gaza in the last ten days: He has said the IDF will no longer put up with missile attacks by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip disrupting life in southern Israel.
Sunday, he spoke of the coming military operation against Gaza and said it would be would be instigated by Israel and be "orderly and painful."
These warnings carried a message to Abbas that the IDF was poised for a military operation against Hamas which would scuttle any understanding he forged with the Palestinian fundamentalists and he would be smart to back down in good time.