President Obama visited Ramallah today and held a joint news conference with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas during which he reiterated the U.S. stand in favor of the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. But just before that confab he received a greeting from the real Palestinian state in all but name, already in existence on Israel’s opposite border. Rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel with reports saying that two landed in Sderot and that others may have been fired elsewhere.
While none of the terror groups, including the Hamas rulers of Gaza, took responsibility for the attacks, the message was clear. While the president was engaging in an awkward dance with Abbas about the peace process, the result of the last major Israeli attempt to trade land for peace was illustrating not only that the PA didn’t control much of what would constitute that independent state but that those who did had no interest in a two-state solution.
The Obama-Abbas press conference struck a very different note from the friendly exchanges that marked the president’s appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. While the president was again stating his support for the idea of a Palestinian state and doing so in terms that ought to concern friends of Israel, he also pushed back a little bit on Abbas’s charade that Israeli settlements were preventing the outbreak of peace.
Next week, Mahmoud Abbas will enter the 92nd month of his 48-month term, and now has Yasser Arafat’s record in sight. Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, running essentially unopposed (his opponent was a 72-year old woman with no political party). In 2004, in the ninth year of his four-year term, he left office on account of death. His second-in-command was elected president less than two months later, running essentially unopposed (Hamas boycotted the election). Abbas is now midway through the eighth year of his own four-year term, almost certain to break Arafat’s record if he can just stay healthy.
Next month, Abbas plans to return to the UN to seek recognition of a virtual Palestinian state — having already rejected a real one back when he was actually in office. Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Abbas’s decision to return to the UN is a ploy to avoid internal problems and extort more funds from the U.S. and Europe. But rather than sinking more money into another Palestinian president who rejects a state if the price is recognition of a Jewish one in defensible borders, perhaps it is time for a long-overdue review of U.S. policy.
The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson has published his account of Mitt Romney’s trip abroad, focusing on the GOP candidate’s time in Israel. It is an editorial disguised as a story–common for presidential campaigns–and includes snarky asides unworthy of lefty blog posts, let alone newspaper reporting. But the crux of the problem for Wilson is identified in the headline: he calls Romney’s comments about Palestinian culture “puzzling.” Because he does not quote anyone in the story calling those comments “puzzling,” it’s clear from the context that Wilson is the puzzled one.
So let’s help him out a bit. Of Romney’s comments on Palestinian culture as one factor in the lagging Palestinian economy, Wilson writes:
The assessment is one not widely shared within Israel, and suggested a lack of sustained study or nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
Wilson does not provide any attribution to back that statement up, probably because it is demonstrably false. It is, in fact, quite easy to find those in Israel and their democratically-elected government officials expressing this idea. But perhaps we should ask the Palestinians what they think. In 1994, at the beginning of the Oslo process but decades after the Six-Day War created the current geopolitical setting, Eyad El-Sarraj, the founder and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, wrote the following:
Palestinians have to address taboos and bring into the open ideological, cultural and political weaknesses which have infiltrated their national movement and seriously damaged their individual and collective awareness. They have to address their dependency on the outside world, their self-indulgent image of the victim, their own cycle of violence and oppression, their conflict between religious and secular identity, and the erosion of their national identity. Above all they have to confront the loss of the dream of liberating all of Palestine and the accompanying grief. They will have to exercise democratic debate and respect the right to oppose. Only then will a new style of political and community leadership evolve.
Yesha Chairman Dani Dayan’s New York Times op-ed is sure to rankle Mideast watchers on both sides of the issue. Dayan writes that not only is the two-state solution dead, but it should be declared so and the settlement movement should be free to expand throughout the West Bank. Although Dayan makes a couple of important points about the weakness of the current push for a two-state solution, he ignores both an accepted reality and the Palestinian people, and two of his ideas contained in the op-ed would be, if accepted, detrimental to the American foreign policy doctrine that results in such steadfast American support for Israel.
First and foremost, a majority of Israelis (usually around the 60 percent mark, sometimes higher) consistently support the two-state solution, even at a time when that proposal is clearly at a post-Oslo low point. So Dayan need not appeal to readers of the New York Times; he is far from convincing his own countrymen to join him. It is much easier to understand why the Times chose to publish the op-ed: the American left would like to frame the debate as consisting of two points of view–Dayan’s and J Street’s. Both are outside the mainstream consensus on this issue, and it is only up against Dayan’s arguments that the hard-left can appear reasonable. With regard to Dayan, there are three questions he should be asked after writing this op-ed.
The last thing President Obama needs is another September showdown over Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly. Last year’s fiasco was damaging enough, and that wasn’t with a presidential election looming. But that’s exactly what Palestinian envoy Maen Rashid Areikat is threatening, according to The Hill:
The lack of progress on a two-state solution led the Palestinians to unilaterally seek United Nations recognition as a sovereign state last year — a move the Obama administration vowed to block — and Areikat warned that the Palestinians might well try again.
“The Palestinian leadership said that they reserve the right to resort to any and every venue possible to further our objectives,” Areikat said, noting that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat made that clear to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when he met with her on June 20, their first meeting in nine months.
“If the political vacuum continues, we will go to the United Nations General Assembly. We are going to explore other venues, and we have the right to do that.”
The EU accused Israel yesterday of endangering the two-state solution, inter alia via such crimes as failing to allow more Palestinian construction in parts of the West Bank under full Israeli control. How this threatens a two-state solution is never explained, for the simple reason that it obviously doesn’t: Israel’s refusal to authorize certain Palestinian construction now in no way prevents a Palestinian government from authorizing it later if that land becomes Palestinian under a peace deal.
But focusing on such non-problems allows the EU to ignore the real threat to the two-state solution: the ongoing Palestinian refusal to talk to Israel – not only among the official leadership, but among civil society as well.
While it’s true the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, their “friends” don’t do them any favors either. From the conspiracy theorists ranting about the “Israel Lobby” to “peace studies” intellectuals who inevitably turn out to be vicious anti-Semites to the proudly ignorant activists who debase the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against South African apartheid by using those terms in vain, pro-Palestinian advocates have been manifestly unable to mount a serious intellectual argument for their cause. And failed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad seems to know it.
Reuters interviewed the hapless technocrat, and he couched his failure in terms more sensible than his allies ever offer:
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday the Palestinians may have “lost the argument” on the international stage for an independent state but cautioned that continued Israeli occupation was unsustainable….
He also warned his administration’s future was clouded by severe financial strains and said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world behind their cause.
“I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost the argument. But that doesn’t make our position wrong,” said the former World Bank economist, a political independent who has had strong support amongst Western powers.