Going into yesterday’s UN vote on upgrading Palestinian status at the world body, the Palestinian Authority received a fair amount of support from Israeli political figures, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh. Western European leaders also supported Mahmoud Abbas’s UN stunt as a way to possibly break the peace process out of its slumber. And in an utterly predictable move, the Palestinians announced as soon as the vote was tallied that they plan to make their Israeli and Western supporters look foolish.
The New York Times reports on the “day after” in Abbas’s world, and explains why negotiations are at an impasse: “Negotiations for a two-state solution have been stalled with the Palestinians, who insist on a halt to settlement building. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he is ready for negotiations without preconditions and has refused to renew a temporary freeze that expired in 2010.” There’s that genius idea of President Obama’s still haunting negotiations: the curse of the “preconditions.” Now that we know precondition demands by the Palestinians are holding up negotiations, will the UN vote change that? “With the new emphasis on the territory as occupied, Palestinian officials said, the demand for a settlement freeze was unlikely to be dropped,” the Times continues. So yesterday’s vote will make it less likely the Palestinians will return to the negotiating table.
Let’s not forget the full extent of the disaster brought on the peace process by Obama’s freeze precondition; as Omri Ceren pointed out here last year, it ended up weakening rather than boosting Abbas, who found that it wasn’t so easy for him to climb down from the limb on which Obama had deserted him. Abbas apparently still thinks he can’t climb down.
But it will be interesting to see now how the Western supporters of Abbas’s UN move will react to this. Abbas is threatening not to come back to the negotiating table, which would debunk these supporters’ claims that the UN move would be good for the peace process. They may be tempted to push Netanyahu to accept Abbas’s preconditions–but that is the reason for the impasse in the first place. And they shouldn’t forget the can of worms they opened when they supported preconditions last time: every time Netanyahu appeared willing to consider preconditions, Abbas added to them, because the preconditions are designed to disrupt and prevent negotiations, not enable them.
Maybe Abbas will have a change of heart. But it appears for now that Abbas took everyone for a ride, and that Olmert and his ideological allies on the Israeli and Western left miscalculated. Go figure.