Commentary Magazine


Topic: Palestinian independence

No UN Palestinian Veto? Obama’s Tempted.

This week push may come to shove on the long-simmering feud between President Obama and the Israeli government. With the Palestinians pushing for a United Nations Security Council resolution that would unilaterally recognize their independence in the territory won by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, the administration must decide whether it is truly in its interests to facilitate an end run around the peace process it has sponsored by refusing to veto the measure just to demonstrate its pique at Prime Minister Netanyahu and or undermine his chances for reelection in the March elections. But while the stakes here are high for both Israel, whose isolation could be greatly increased by passage of such a resolution, and Netanyahu, the danger to Obama’s foreign policy and U.S. interests from such a vote is high as well. Just as important, the notion that passage of this resolution has anything to do with promoting peace is farcical.

Read More

This week push may come to shove on the long-simmering feud between President Obama and the Israeli government. With the Palestinians pushing for a United Nations Security Council resolution that would unilaterally recognize their independence in the territory won by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, the administration must decide whether it is truly in its interests to facilitate an end run around the peace process it has sponsored by refusing to veto the measure just to demonstrate its pique at Prime Minister Netanyahu and or undermine his chances for reelection in the March elections. But while the stakes here are high for both Israel, whose isolation could be greatly increased by passage of such a resolution, and Netanyahu, the danger to Obama’s foreign policy and U.S. interests from such a vote is high as well. Just as important, the notion that passage of this resolution has anything to do with promoting peace is farcical.

The Palestinian Authority’s motives for seeking to gain a Security Council vote on recognition of their independence are clear. They claim that the peace negotiations promoted by the U.S. over the years has not brought them closer to their declared goal of gaining a state and that only by having the international community force its hand will Israel ever be willing to retreat to the 1967 lines and let Palestinians enjoy sovereignty and self-determination. That is the argument behind the decisions of several European parliaments to adopt resolutions endorsing Palestinian statehood.

But it must be understood that this campaign is about avoiding a negotiated end to the conflict, not finding a shortcut to one. The Palestinians have, after all, been offered statehood in Gaza, almost all of the West Bank, and a share of Jerusalem three times by the Israelis in 2000, 2001, and 2008. Even Netanyahu’s government arrived at the negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State Kerry in the last year prepared to offer another two-state solution with a prominent advocate of this plan, Tzipi Livni, as their negotiator. But PA leader Mahmoud Abbas blew up those talks just as he fled the table in 2008 when Ehud Olmert offered him virtually everything he had asked for. The obstacle wasn’t Israeli settlements or intransigence, but the fact that Abbas knows it would be political suicide for him to sign any deal that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one, no matter where its borders were drawn.

What the Palestinians want, in other words, is a way to avoid negotiations that would obligate them in one form or another to end the conflict with Israel as the price of their independence. The problem with negotiations isn’t that the Israelis, even Netanyahu, have been intransigent, but that no matter how much Obama and Kerry tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians, a solution must in the end require them to make peace. The UN resolution they want would merely obligate the Israelis to retreat from more territory without any assurances that what happened when they gave up every inch of Gaza in 2005—the creation of a terrorist Hamas state—would not happen again in the more strategic and larger West Bank.

Obama would savor the embarrassment this would cause Netanyahu, whose chances for reelection might be damaged by an open breach with the United States and the country’s increased isolation as the world demanded it give up land without offering it peace. But this would also mean the effective end of a major portion of the president’s foreign-policy focus: the achievement of a Middle East peace agreement. It would also mark the end of U.S. influence over either side to the confrontation as both Israelis and Palestinians would no longer need or have any desire to gravitate to the U.S.

The surge in Palestinian violence and the growing support for their statehood among European governments may cause Obama to feel more pressure to go along with Western European allies. Just as important, he may be dismayed by the thought that another veto that backs up a negotiated path to Palestinian statehood will be interpreted by Israelis as proving that Netanyahu has, contrary to his critics, not destroyed the alliance. The irony that a decision by the prime minister’s bitter American enemy would help undermine arguments for Netanyahu’s replacement has to worry Obama. But he should also be worried by the blowback from a failure to order a veto.

The president’s hard-core left-wing supporters might defend such a decision but it would be widely condemned by most Democrats, who will rightly see it as a cynical betrayal of principle motivated more by personal grudges than the national interest. It might also backfire in Israel since voters there would be entitled to say the non-veto was proof of Obama’s irremediable hostility to the Jewish state and might motivate many to back Netanyahu so as to demonstrate their unwillingness to be intimidated into accepting measures that would undermine their security and rights.

The optimal scenario for Obama is to avoid any vote on Palestinian independence in the Security Council that would destroy the peace process. But if he is in this difficult position, it’s largely the fault of his own efforts. After spending the last few years bending over backwards trying to demonstrate daylight between the positions of Israel and the United States, the Palestinians have come to believe that sooner or later the president will hand them the diplomatic victory they long for without being forced to pay any price for it. Doing so will be as much a blow to U.S. interests as it will be to Israel, but it’s hard to blame either the Palestinians or the Europeans for thinking that this time, Obama will really betray the Israelis simply in order to harm Netanyahu. If he does, it will mark a new low for an administration that has already turned undermining allies into an art form.

Read Less

Israel’s Settlements and the Europeans

Those looking for an explanation for why almost all of Europe backed the Palestinians in the recent vote to upgrade their status at the United Nations are blaming it on Israel’s decision to continue building homes in Jerusalem and its suburbs. As reporter Laura Rozen put it in a tweet, “Does Israel really not get how fed up Europe is w/ its settlement policies?” The upshot of this sort of thinking is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fanatical devotion to “Greater Israel” is isolating Israel and forcing even its friends to abandon its cause in international forums.

The problem with this thesis is that it is pure bunk. As Jonathan Schanzer and Benjamin Weinthal point out in their article in Foreign Policy (about which Rozen was commenting), there are a lot of reasons why the Europeans stabbed the Israelis in the back at the UN, among which their objections to “settlements” is by no means inconsiderable. But as I pointed out earlier, if the Europeans believe that the 1967 lines with land swaps is the formula for peace, it’s hard to understand why they are upset with Israel building in places that everyone knows they would keep under such a plan. After all, does anyone who is actually interested in peace–as opposed to those who think every Jewish home anywhere in the country is an illegal settlement–actually think Israel will abandon 40-year-old Jerusalem neighborhoods or the suburbs that are close to the green line? Far from the Israelis pushing the limits in their quest for settlements, it is the Europeans who are redefining the terms of peace.

Read More

Those looking for an explanation for why almost all of Europe backed the Palestinians in the recent vote to upgrade their status at the United Nations are blaming it on Israel’s decision to continue building homes in Jerusalem and its suburbs. As reporter Laura Rozen put it in a tweet, “Does Israel really not get how fed up Europe is w/ its settlement policies?” The upshot of this sort of thinking is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fanatical devotion to “Greater Israel” is isolating Israel and forcing even its friends to abandon its cause in international forums.

The problem with this thesis is that it is pure bunk. As Jonathan Schanzer and Benjamin Weinthal point out in their article in Foreign Policy (about which Rozen was commenting), there are a lot of reasons why the Europeans stabbed the Israelis in the back at the UN, among which their objections to “settlements” is by no means inconsiderable. But as I pointed out earlier, if the Europeans believe that the 1967 lines with land swaps is the formula for peace, it’s hard to understand why they are upset with Israel building in places that everyone knows they would keep under such a plan. After all, does anyone who is actually interested in peace–as opposed to those who think every Jewish home anywhere in the country is an illegal settlement–actually think Israel will abandon 40-year-old Jerusalem neighborhoods or the suburbs that are close to the green line? Far from the Israelis pushing the limits in their quest for settlements, it is the Europeans who are redefining the terms of peace.

For Israel’s European critics, “Greater Israel” is no longer all of the West Bank, which even Netanyahu has conceded may be ceded for a real peace deal, nor even retention of an undivided Jerusalem. They are now acting as if any Israeli government that acts as if it is going to hold onto all of the Jewish areas of Jerusalem is a foe of peace. In doing so, they are not only distorting Israel’s position — which is still perfectly compatible with a two-state solution based on the ’67 lines with swaps — but also covering up or ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have refused Israeli offers of a state and now no longer even wish to negotiate.

The idea that the Europeans — save for the principled stand of the Czech Republic — have turned on the Israelis solely because of “settlements” is a misnomer. The tilt toward the Palestinians and against Israel is not a recent phenomenon, nor is it the product of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister. Virtually any act of Israeli self-defense is treated as impermissible. Nor can one understand the unwillingness of these governments to stand with Israel outside of a context in which anti-Zionism has become the orthodoxy of European intellectuals and the rising tide of anti-Semitism on the continent.

Moreover, as Schanzer and Weinthal point out, the decision to back Mahmoud Abbas at the UN has just as much if not more to do with the hope that giving him a shot in the arm will undermine Hamas. This is a monumental misjudgment, since Abbas cannot hope to compete in the long run with the more violent Islamists who run what is already an independent Palestinian state in all but name.

Europeans who think isolating Israel in this manner will teach Netanyahu or the Israeli people a lesson are ignoring the realities of the conflict. Though they would divest themselves of almost all of the territories in exchange for an end to the conflict, the overwhelming majority of Israelis have no intention of allowing the West Bank to become another, more dangerous version of Gaza from which Islamist terrorists will launch missiles or terror attacks. A European demand for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines including a divided Jerusalem and the eviction of nearly half a million Jews from their homes to empower a Palestinian entity that won’t negotiate is antithetical to the idea of genuine peace.

Read Less

Palestinians Still Embrace Spirit of 1947

The vote to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status at the United Nations today is being conducted on the world body’s annual Day of Solidarity with Palestinians. That is, as PA head Mahmoud Abbas helpfully pointed out in his speech to the General Assembly, the anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine. Along with other anti-Israel speakers during this debate, he noted that the Palestinian people have suffered during the intervening decades and that it was an injustice that they had been denied a state. Yet he and others who spoke on his behalf failed to explain that failure to create a Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel at that time was not due to the intransigence of the Jews, West Bank settlements, or obstruction from the West. It was the Palestinians themselves as well as their allies throughout the Arab and Muslim world that absolutely refused to contemplate a plan that would have created an Arab state next to the new Jewish one.

This is not merely a piece of historical trivia that is irrelevant to the farce that was played out in New York in which a corrupt, undemocratic and discredited Fatah regime was honored as if it were a legitimate sovereign. It is, in fact, crucial to understanding what happened during the last 65 years. The main truth about this conflict has always been guided by one fact: neither the Palestinians nor their backers were willing then to acknowledge the rights of the Jews. It is only now after decades of intransigence that the Arabs say they want a state. But the common thread from 1947 to today’s debate is the willingness of much of the world to delegitimize Jewish rights and to bypass negotiations. Just as the Arabs refused to deal with the Jews then, Abbas, as well as the leaders of Hamas who control the independent Palestinian state in Gaza, won’t negotiate with Israel. Though many of the nations that voted in favor of today’s resolution claimed they were hoping to speed up a two-state solution to the conflict, what they did was to enable a continuation of that same spirit of Arab intransigence of 1947 that made war inevitable.

Read More

The vote to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status at the United Nations today is being conducted on the world body’s annual Day of Solidarity with Palestinians. That is, as PA head Mahmoud Abbas helpfully pointed out in his speech to the General Assembly, the anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine. Along with other anti-Israel speakers during this debate, he noted that the Palestinian people have suffered during the intervening decades and that it was an injustice that they had been denied a state. Yet he and others who spoke on his behalf failed to explain that failure to create a Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel at that time was not due to the intransigence of the Jews, West Bank settlements, or obstruction from the West. It was the Palestinians themselves as well as their allies throughout the Arab and Muslim world that absolutely refused to contemplate a plan that would have created an Arab state next to the new Jewish one.

This is not merely a piece of historical trivia that is irrelevant to the farce that was played out in New York in which a corrupt, undemocratic and discredited Fatah regime was honored as if it were a legitimate sovereign. It is, in fact, crucial to understanding what happened during the last 65 years. The main truth about this conflict has always been guided by one fact: neither the Palestinians nor their backers were willing then to acknowledge the rights of the Jews. It is only now after decades of intransigence that the Arabs say they want a state. But the common thread from 1947 to today’s debate is the willingness of much of the world to delegitimize Jewish rights and to bypass negotiations. Just as the Arabs refused to deal with the Jews then, Abbas, as well as the leaders of Hamas who control the independent Palestinian state in Gaza, won’t negotiate with Israel. Though many of the nations that voted in favor of today’s resolution claimed they were hoping to speed up a two-state solution to the conflict, what they did was to enable a continuation of that same spirit of Arab intransigence of 1947 that made war inevitable.

Of course, few in 1947 or even in the years after that would speak of the need for a Palestinian Arab state. Their goal then was much simpler: to deny the Jews a state no matter how tiny its area or constricted its borders might be. It was that goal that caused the Palestinians to fight their Jewish neighbors and to invite the intervention of five neighboring Arab states that invaded the territory of the former Mandate for Palestine on the day that Israel was born.

Nor was there much talk about what an injustice it was that there was no Palestinian state in the next 19 years when Egypt ruled Gaza and Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. Then the only injustice mentioned was that there was a Jewish state in that area which we now refer to as “pre-1967 Israel.” Indeed, during that period pressure was put upon Israel to retreat from those borders to accommodate Arab claims and to accept the return of hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees to the country (a number that has now improbably grown to 5 million according to UN agencies) so as to swamp the new nation with no reference to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries at that time. It was only after the Six-Day War that the clamor for a separate Palestinian state gained support in the Arab world, let alone the rest of the globe.

However, we are told now that the Palestinians repent their 1947 folly and only wish to exercise sovereignty in the lands Israel took from Egypt and Jordan in 1967. Leaving aside the fact that under international law, Jews have the same right to live in the West Bank and Jerusalem as Palestinians, Israel is asked to withdraw from these territories to allow the Arabs to rectify their mistake in rejecting a state.

But just like in 1947, the Palestinians won’t negotiate with the Israelis or compromise on points where both sides have competing rights. Nor are they willing to agree to respect the right of Jews to live in peace alongside them. Though Abbas paid lip service to a two-state solution today, the only rights he is interested in protecting are the rights of Palestinians to shoot rockets at Israelis.

For all of the talk about justice, the Palestinian nationalism of 2012 is remarkably similar in many ways to that of 1947. At that time, it had only been a few years since Palestinians openly sided with the Nazis in World War II. (As Caroline Glick notes, yesterday was the anniversary of the historic 1941 meeting in Berlin between Adolf Hitler and Palestinian leader Haj Amin el Husseini at which they shared their dreams for the annihilation of the Jews). The goal of the war to destroy Israel wasn’t to carve out room for yet another Arab state but to extinguish the Jewish presence in the land.

The same eliminationist spirit is to be found in the Hamas covenant as well as in the nonstop drumbeat of anti-Jewish incitement that can be found in the Palestinian media in Gaza as well as Abbas’s West Bank, Egypt and much of the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. Though Abbas makes the obligatory bow to the reality of Israel in his remarks to Western forums, the PA’s official media is as bad as that of the Islamists of Hamas when it comes to hate speech about Jews. That is echoed in the United Nations that chose the anniversary of partition not to celebrate the rights of Jews and Arabs but as the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians. It, too, has bought into the myth of the “Nakba” in which Israel is viewed as the “disaster” which was imposed on the Middle East.

So long as Palestinian nationalism is based on the negation of Israel rather than a positive vision for themselves, peace is impossible. While the UN vote won’t change much of anything on the ground, there should be no mistake about the basic continuity between the Arab positions of 1947 and today.

Read Less

Despite UN Charade, Hamas Cashing In

Today is Mahmoud Abbas’s big day at the United Nations, as the Palestinian Authority’s Third World allies and Western sympathizers are uniting to throw the Fatah leader a bone in the form of an upgrade in the group’s status at the world body. The symbolism of this move, especially since it is timed to occur on the 65th anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine, is not without some value to those that think the recognition of the PA’s rights in the territory the Jewish state conquered in 1967 is a step toward forcing more Israeli withdrawals. But the talk about the PA being the government of an independent Palestinian state, even on that only exists in theory, is an escape from reality, not a look into the future. That’s because the people that already run an independent Palestinian state have their eyes on Abbas’s rotten borough in the West Bank and are planning to put it under different management.

While Abbas is taking a bow at the charade in New York where he will behave as the head of a virtual state, one of the leaders of the rival Hamas movement was talking about a merger with Fatah that would put the Islamists on course to run the West Bank. As the New York Times reports, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke from his new headquarters in Doha, Qatar today and declared his intention to step up efforts to finally forge a unity agreement with Fatah. Though the two groups have been dancing around an accord for more than a year, the decision by Hamas to re-launch the effort in the wake of its missile offensive against Israel is no coincidence. Having gained ground in terms of popularity among Palestinians in the only way one can in their political culture — via violence — Hamas is about to cash in its chips and seek to win control of the West Bank by more peaceful means.

Read More

Today is Mahmoud Abbas’s big day at the United Nations, as the Palestinian Authority’s Third World allies and Western sympathizers are uniting to throw the Fatah leader a bone in the form of an upgrade in the group’s status at the world body. The symbolism of this move, especially since it is timed to occur on the 65th anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine, is not without some value to those that think the recognition of the PA’s rights in the territory the Jewish state conquered in 1967 is a step toward forcing more Israeli withdrawals. But the talk about the PA being the government of an independent Palestinian state, even on that only exists in theory, is an escape from reality, not a look into the future. That’s because the people that already run an independent Palestinian state have their eyes on Abbas’s rotten borough in the West Bank and are planning to put it under different management.

While Abbas is taking a bow at the charade in New York where he will behave as the head of a virtual state, one of the leaders of the rival Hamas movement was talking about a merger with Fatah that would put the Islamists on course to run the West Bank. As the New York Times reports, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke from his new headquarters in Doha, Qatar today and declared his intention to step up efforts to finally forge a unity agreement with Fatah. Though the two groups have been dancing around an accord for more than a year, the decision by Hamas to re-launch the effort in the wake of its missile offensive against Israel is no coincidence. Having gained ground in terms of popularity among Palestinians in the only way one can in their political culture — via violence — Hamas is about to cash in its chips and seek to win control of the West Bank by more peaceful means.

Meshaal is seeking to seal a unity deal by having Hamas included in new elections for the Palestine Liberation Organization, the alliance of terrorist groups headed by Yasir Arafat that signed the Oslo Accords with Israel. The Times reports that Meshaal will be given a senior post in the PLO via appointment by Abbas or a vote by its governing council. That will set in motion a train of events that could leave Hamas gaining control of the West Bank by winning an election just as its victory in the Palestinian legislative elections preceded the violent coup by which it seized the Gaza in 2006.

That puts Hamas in the awkward position of attempting to run the Palestinian Authority even though it was created as a result of the peace accord with Israel. But that seeming contradiction doesn’t worry Meshaal or anybody else in Hamas. They are committed to “resistance” against Israel and have no plans of recognizing it or working toward peace. But it does put them in position to establish its dominance via the ballot box.

The reason why Abbas is currently serving the eighth year of a four-year term as president of the PA is that he has always rightly feared defeat if Hamas was given a chance to unseat him. But he knows that dissatisfaction with his rule is growing and that it might be smarter to deal with Hamas now while he still has some leverage over them rather than later on when he might have none. Though consummation of the unity deal is a long way off, the Islamist group knows that if it plays its cards right, sooner or later it could be running things in Ramallah the way it currently does in Gaza.

The bottom line here is that those who think today’s vote will give Abbas the strength he needs to hold off Hamas are not paying attention to what is going on in the region. Though Fatah’s friends in Europe think they can keep him afloat, Hamas’s backing from Egypt and Turkey and the financial and military support they get from Iran have changed the balance of forces in Palestinian politics. A symbolic vote isn’t convincing anyone that Fatah rather than Hamas is the face of Palestinian nationalism. Though Abbas is having a good day in New York, it is Meshaal and the rest of Hamas that is about to reap the benefits of the Arab–or should we say, Islamist–Spring that is threatening to plunge the Middle East into more darkness.

Read Less

Palestinian UN Bid Not About Peace

With the Palestinian Authority all but certain to have its status at the United Nations upgraded this evening to nonmember observer state, some who call themselves friends of Israel as well as some prominent Israelis are applauding the initiative. In particular, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he does not oppose the move by his former negotiating partner, PA head Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert says the vote will promote a two-state solution and help Palestinian moderates in their quest to make peace with Israel. But Olmert, whose attempt to give Abbas pretty much everything he had asked for in 2008 resulted in the Palestinian fleeing the U.S.-sponsored talks without even responding to the offer of a state, seems more interested in vainly seeking to undermine his successor Benjamin Netanyahu than drawing conclusions from his own experience.

The show at the UN is about a number of things, but advancing the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians isn’t one of them.

Read More

With the Palestinian Authority all but certain to have its status at the United Nations upgraded this evening to nonmember observer state, some who call themselves friends of Israel as well as some prominent Israelis are applauding the initiative. In particular, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he does not oppose the move by his former negotiating partner, PA head Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert says the vote will promote a two-state solution and help Palestinian moderates in their quest to make peace with Israel. But Olmert, whose attempt to give Abbas pretty much everything he had asked for in 2008 resulted in the Palestinian fleeing the U.S.-sponsored talks without even responding to the offer of a state, seems more interested in vainly seeking to undermine his successor Benjamin Netanyahu than drawing conclusions from his own experience.

The show at the UN is about a number of things, but advancing the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians isn’t one of them.

The decision of most European countries to line up behind the PA seems to be based on the same reasoning put forward by Olmert. They think that after Hamas’s attention-getting terrorist missile offensive against Israel it is necessary for those who would prefer the PA to lead the Palestinians rather than the Islamists to give Abbas a shot in the arm. The win today in New York will give him that, but the vote shouldn’t be mistaken for anything that will advance peace. In fact, the whole point of the exercise is to help Abbas avoid being cornered into a negotiation like the one he abandoned with Olmert.

Understanding this requires observers to stop their myopic obsession with Israel and to focus on the real obstacle to a two-state solution: the inability of the PA to ever sign an accord that will accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state no matter where its borders are drawn.

Netanyahu’s critics consistently decry his lack of a long-term strategy for dealing with the Palestinians and achieving peace. In a sense they’re right, since the prime minister and most Israelis don’t believe peace is possible in the immediate or perhaps even the foreseeable future because of the PA’s refusal to negotiate or to contemplate the sort of compromises needed for an agreement.

But the PA can justly be accused of the same thing. Abbas has no long-term strategy, since he won’t or can’t make peace with even an Israeli leader like Olmert who was willing to make drastic concessions, and doesn’t want to return to fighting the Israelis as his predecessor Yasir Arafat did during the second intifada and as Hamas continues to do.

All Abbas can do is to hang on in the West Bank. His strategy is to avoid elections that he might lose to the increasingly popular Hamas while also evading peace talks with the Israelis while also seeking to maintain a security relationship with the Jewish state that keeps his corrupt and discredited regime in place.

The show at the UN is perfect for Abbas since it does nothing to hinder those objects, especially since the Israelis have wisely decided not to retaliate for his stunt.

The problem for the PA will come next year as a re-elected President Obama will likely attempt to revive a peace process that Abbas has spent the last four years dodging. By then, the UN vote will be just one more propaganda move that will heighten Israel’s diplomatic isolation but achieve nothing tangible for Palestinians. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to rule a real independent Palestinian state in all but name that makes Abbas’s Ramallah outfit look like Israeli puppets.

Those expecting today’s vote will do anything to advance the moribund talks are dreaming, and not just because the upgrade will make mischief for Israel in international forums. Peace talks are the last thing Abbas wants.

Read Less

Israel Right to Downplay UN Vote

After more than a year of campaigning for it, the Palestinian Authority will have its moment tomorrow when the General Assembly of the United Nations will vote to upgrade the PA’s status to nonvoting observer. Israel’s foes will rejoice and many of its friends will worry. Some of that will be justified, as the decision will be a symbolic triumph that the Palestinians will attempt to portray as tantamount to UN recognition of their independence in the areas Israel won in the Six-Day War. But after working hard to prevent this from happening, the Israeli government has decided to downplay the outcome. Some will interpret this as nothing more than a feeble attempt to spin a diplomatic defeat; the reaction is more than just politically astute. It is an accurate reflection of the real-world impact of the vote since it won’t change a thing on the ground in the Middle East or even at the UN itself.

The Palestinian Authority knows all too well that the victory they will win tomorrow is of minimal use to them. They can use it to create mischief for Israel in the International Criminal Court as well as bolster their already secure niche in the hearts of most UN member states and the world body’s bureaucracy. But it won’t get them one inch closer to actual independence or — more importantly — give them any credibility with Palestinians who will be quick to note that it will change nothing in the West Bank or in Gaza where the PA’s Hamas rivals rule over an independent state in all but name. Rather than seeking to punish the PA and its leader Mahmoud Abbas for effectively trashing the Oslo Accords, Israel can afford to ignore the vote since it will not move him any closer to a state or genuine international legitimacy. The only reason European nations and even some of the PA’s third-world allies are backing the move is because they know it has no significance. After all, how can any government claim to be independent when a rival group already exercises sovereignty over part of the territory it claims?

Read More

After more than a year of campaigning for it, the Palestinian Authority will have its moment tomorrow when the General Assembly of the United Nations will vote to upgrade the PA’s status to nonvoting observer. Israel’s foes will rejoice and many of its friends will worry. Some of that will be justified, as the decision will be a symbolic triumph that the Palestinians will attempt to portray as tantamount to UN recognition of their independence in the areas Israel won in the Six-Day War. But after working hard to prevent this from happening, the Israeli government has decided to downplay the outcome. Some will interpret this as nothing more than a feeble attempt to spin a diplomatic defeat; the reaction is more than just politically astute. It is an accurate reflection of the real-world impact of the vote since it won’t change a thing on the ground in the Middle East or even at the UN itself.

The Palestinian Authority knows all too well that the victory they will win tomorrow is of minimal use to them. They can use it to create mischief for Israel in the International Criminal Court as well as bolster their already secure niche in the hearts of most UN member states and the world body’s bureaucracy. But it won’t get them one inch closer to actual independence or — more importantly — give them any credibility with Palestinians who will be quick to note that it will change nothing in the West Bank or in Gaza where the PA’s Hamas rivals rule over an independent state in all but name. Rather than seeking to punish the PA and its leader Mahmoud Abbas for effectively trashing the Oslo Accords, Israel can afford to ignore the vote since it will not move him any closer to a state or genuine international legitimacy. The only reason European nations and even some of the PA’s third-world allies are backing the move is because they know it has no significance. After all, how can any government claim to be independent when a rival group already exercises sovereignty over part of the territory it claims?

In the summer of 2011 when the Palestinians first announced their intention of trying an end around the U.S.-sponsored peace process via the UN, many foreign policy observers as well as many Israeli critics of the Netanyahu government were quick to portray this effort as a “diplomatic tsunami” that would completely isolate the Jewish state. But these visions of doom were quickly exposed as nothing more than hot air when the initiative flopped last year. The Palestinians failed to gain enough votes in the Security Council to force the U.S. to veto actual independence and they soon realized there was little appetite even in the General Assembly where they could count on an automatic anti-Israel majority to delve into the issue.

They’ve done better this year but not because anybody really thinks Fatah’s corrupt, discredited and unpopular West Bank regime is deserving of this upgrade. Rather, it is merely a way for the international community to pay lip service to the plight of the Palestinians. They’ve gained the votes of some European nations like France, not because Paris believes that Abbas’s pretensions should be gratified but because they think they need to make some gesture toward the PA after the recently concluded fighting between Israel and Hamas along the border with Gaza. By demonstrating that it had the support of Egypt and Turkey as well as most Palestinians for their terrorist rocket offensive against Israel, Hamas confirmed its status as the true face of Palestinian nationalism. The UN vote won’t do a thing to undermine the Islamist group, but it will allow many in the West and elsewhere to pretend as if they are doing something to bolster the alleged moderates of Fatah.

Both Israelis and Palestinians know that if PA leader Mahmoud Abbas actually wanted a state in the West Bank, he could have one if he was willing to pay the price of recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn. Even if we were to assume that he wanted to do it, Abbas can’t since that would render him even more vulnerable to Hamas inroads in the West Bank.

The UN gambit is an insult to the U.S. and the European nations that fund the PA through foreign aid that does little to help ordinary Palestinians, since it is an attempt to evade negotiations rather than to facilitate them. But they are tolerating it since it allows Abbas a shred of dignity in his increasingly unequal competition with the terrorist government of Gaza. Were Jerusalem to punish the PA or, as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has threatened to do in the past, to topple it, it would only make things more complicated for Israel and strengthen Hamas.

But after the hoopla tomorrow at Turtle Bay, there will be little in the way of negative fallout for the Israelis. Life will continue as usual in the West Bank and Gaza and the region will be no closer or farther away from peace. While certainly unwelcome, it is neither a tsunami nor even much of a nuisance. The best proof that Israel is right to ignore it will come in the days, weeks and months to come when both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders realize that the UN vote was a non-event that did nothing much to advance their campaign against Israel.

Read Less

PA’s UN Bid Won’t Undermine Hamas

While there is some debate as to who emerged as the real winner from the recent fighting between Hamas and Israel, there’s little doubt that the big loser was the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s head, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah party were shown to be irrelevant to the Middle East conflict as Hamas demonstrated once again that it is running an independent Palestinian state in all but name. The firing of hundreds of rockets at Israel boosted Hamas’s popularity among Palestinians who still view violence as the only credential that brings political credibility. But Abbas still has one card to play: his attempt to get the United Nations General Assembly to upgrade the PA’s status at the world body to nonmember observer status. The proposed resolution would recognize “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their state of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.”

There’s little doubt that a majority of UN member states will vote for the resolution, but the value of this move was enhanced by the announcement today that France will vote for it. This gives Abbas a much-needed shot in the arm, as it appears that the West will be split with the French being joined by some other European nations while the U.S. and Germany will oppose it. But any expectation that this vote will ensure that Abbas will hold onto the West Bank, let alone lead a state of Palestine some day, is unfounded. Though the vote might make some mischief for Israel at the UN and at the International Criminal Court, most Palestinians understand this is about symbolism, not power. Since Abbas can’t or won’t pay the price of genuine independence — making peace with Israel — his UN gambit remains nothing more than posturing intended to help him avoid the negotiations that could actually help him get something Hamas can’t achieve. Until that changes, any effort to help Abbas via the UN won’t do a thing to undermine Hamas.

Read More

While there is some debate as to who emerged as the real winner from the recent fighting between Hamas and Israel, there’s little doubt that the big loser was the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s head, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah party were shown to be irrelevant to the Middle East conflict as Hamas demonstrated once again that it is running an independent Palestinian state in all but name. The firing of hundreds of rockets at Israel boosted Hamas’s popularity among Palestinians who still view violence as the only credential that brings political credibility. But Abbas still has one card to play: his attempt to get the United Nations General Assembly to upgrade the PA’s status at the world body to nonmember observer status. The proposed resolution would recognize “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their state of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.”

There’s little doubt that a majority of UN member states will vote for the resolution, but the value of this move was enhanced by the announcement today that France will vote for it. This gives Abbas a much-needed shot in the arm, as it appears that the West will be split with the French being joined by some other European nations while the U.S. and Germany will oppose it. But any expectation that this vote will ensure that Abbas will hold onto the West Bank, let alone lead a state of Palestine some day, is unfounded. Though the vote might make some mischief for Israel at the UN and at the International Criminal Court, most Palestinians understand this is about symbolism, not power. Since Abbas can’t or won’t pay the price of genuine independence — making peace with Israel — his UN gambit remains nothing more than posturing intended to help him avoid the negotiations that could actually help him get something Hamas can’t achieve. Until that changes, any effort to help Abbas via the UN won’t do a thing to undermine Hamas.

Those worried about Hamas’s ascendancy keep telling us that the only way to answer the Islamist threat is to bolster Abbas’s corrupt and discredited government. That seems to be the motivation for the French whose president, Francois Hollande, is also not adverse to firing a shot across the bow of an Israeli government that the doesn’t like. But as the reservations expressed by the British government — which is equally hostile to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu but more attuned to political reality — make clear, the UN vote won’t bring the region closer to peace.

As the New York Times notes:

A British official told The Financial Times that Britain was prepared to back the Palestinians but wanted three assurances: that the Palestinians would not then seek to join the International Criminal Court; that they would not follow with a bid for full membership; and that Mr. Abbas return to negotiations without conditions.

These are assurances that Abbas knows he cannot honestly make since the whole point of the UN effort is to help him avoid negotiations which complicate his efforts to compete with Hamas for popularity on the Palestinian street, not to revive them.

France’s betrayal will help heighten the isolation of Israel. But this won’t do a thing to help the lives of ordinary Palestinians or to bring them closer to the independence they say they want. The only thing that can do that is to talk directly to Israel. Yet Hamas’s growing influence internationally as the result of their alliances with Egypt and Turkey means that Abbas has even less room to maneuver than before.

The problem those promoting the UN initiative fail to address is that as long as Fatah is locked in a contest with Hamas to see who can be the most hostile to Israel that it can never win, there’s nothing that anyone in the West can do to help it.

The last time Abbas tried to outmaneuver Israel and the U.S. at the UN the result was a humiliating rebuff that showed his “diplomatic tsunami” was nothing more than an embarrassing drizzle. Though he may do better this year, the disconnect between an illusory diplomatic victory and the facts on the ground for the Palestinians will do more to loosen Abbas’s hold on the West Bank and help Hamas gain ground there than another UN defeat. Those seeking to undermine Hamas via the UN are doing the Palestinian people no favors.

Read Less

Palestinians Waiting for Obama to Win

Israel is being criticized today in the world press for playing hardball with five of the 12 non-aligned nations that had hoped to gather in Ramallah to formally back the Palestinian Authority’s latest attempt to get the United Nations to back their bid for statehood. The delegations from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia who sought to enter the territories while sticking to their non-recognition of the Jewish state were not allowed in, effectively spiking the entire event. The collapse of what the PA had hoped would be a “Ramallah Declaration” was just the latest indication that the Palestinians’ latest UN bid might end as badly as their first try. However, the Palestinians are smart enough to know that placing your chips on the ability of a disorganized and powerless faction like the Non-Aligned Movement isn’t a good bet.

Far more significant than the posturing in Ramallah were the comments by aides of PA President Mahmoud Abbas that their UN campaign would be largely put on hold until after the U.S. presidential election. As the Times of Israel reports, Abbas is planning to soft pedal his UN effort until November because he understands that any talk about the Palestinians could hinder Obama’s re-election hopes. Though the PA has been dismayed by the president’s election year Jewish charm offensive that has seen their concerns pigeonholed in Washington, Abbas is clearly hoping for a better result once Obama is safely returned to office.

Read More

Israel is being criticized today in the world press for playing hardball with five of the 12 non-aligned nations that had hoped to gather in Ramallah to formally back the Palestinian Authority’s latest attempt to get the United Nations to back their bid for statehood. The delegations from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia who sought to enter the territories while sticking to their non-recognition of the Jewish state were not allowed in, effectively spiking the entire event. The collapse of what the PA had hoped would be a “Ramallah Declaration” was just the latest indication that the Palestinians’ latest UN bid might end as badly as their first try. However, the Palestinians are smart enough to know that placing your chips on the ability of a disorganized and powerless faction like the Non-Aligned Movement isn’t a good bet.

Far more significant than the posturing in Ramallah were the comments by aides of PA President Mahmoud Abbas that their UN campaign would be largely put on hold until after the U.S. presidential election. As the Times of Israel reports, Abbas is planning to soft pedal his UN effort until November because he understands that any talk about the Palestinians could hinder Obama’s re-election hopes. Though the PA has been dismayed by the president’s election year Jewish charm offensive that has seen their concerns pigeonholed in Washington, Abbas is clearly hoping for a better result once Obama is safely returned to office.

Abbas had hoped the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement’s Palestine Committee in Ramallah would give him a boost, but the collapse of the publicity stunt is yet another setback for his diplomatic offensive. Israel will be accused of playing the bully in this incident, and the Palestinians may think it will serve their cause, but the spectacle of nations that don’t recognize Israel’s existence seeking entry via Israeli crossings is not likely to harm the Jewish state.

If anything, the contretemps is a reminder that what the PA is trying to execute is an end run around the peace process. They want independence and Israel’s withdrawal from disputed territory but are not willing to negotiate about it and instead are simply demanding the UN hand it to them on a silver platter. Last summer, the world press was abuzz with predictions of a “diplomatic tsunami” which would swamp Israel as the Palestinians were acclaimed at the UN. But the tsunami was barely a light sprinkle as the world yawned and refused to back their play. Though it is still possible that with the help of the Non-Aligned nations they can upgrade their membership privileges via a UN General Assembly resolution, such a step would entail considerable risks for the PA, including the loss of U.S. funding as well as Israeli financial retaliation.

As for their cherished hopes that a second Obama administration would do their bidding, that is exactly the sort of rumbling that scares Democrats who fear Jewish voters will remember the three years of administration pressure on Israel rather than the last few months of friendship. But even though the Palestinians have good reason to think that a Romney administration would be far less willing to tilt the diplomatic playing field in their direction as Obama has done, they need to remember why they’ve accomplished nothing in the past four years.

Even though Obama has been the least friendly president to Israel in at least a generation, the Palestinians got nothing out of it. President Obama picked fights with Israel over settlements, the 1967 lines and the status of Jerusalem, but the Palestinians still struck out because they foolishly thought Obama would do all their dirty work for them and still refused to negotiate.

Israelis may worry about what Obama’s re-election will mean for them, as they know it is a certainty that the charm offensive will end the day after the election. But they can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t likely that Mahmoud Abbas will get any braver or smarter in the next four years. Even with a friend in the White House, the Palestinians will gain no territory or a state so long as they are unwilling to negotiate. Nor can they hope to achieve those goals unless they are prepared to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Because that is still a virtual impossibility, their faith in Obama or the ability of any American politician to help them is clearly misplaced.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.