Commentary Magazine


Palestinians Welcome Obama with Demands and Ultimatums

Israeli leftists may not be excited about President Obama’s trip to Israel, as Jonathan wrote yesterday, but they are taking it a lot better than the Palestinians. The president is not in Israel to try to play Weekend at Bernie’s with the moribund peace process, and that’s not a bad thing. A friendly visit from the American president and a chance to interact with Israelis in person is a fairly low-risk way to try to build some good will, especially for a president who feels he has been misunderstood by Israelis.

But the Palestinians don’t see it that way. The New York Times reports today that the Palestinian leadership is promising to make President Obama regret this trip by punishing him for his lack of interest in pressuring Israel while he’s here. One of the great mistakes made by Obama in his first term was his demand for a Jewish building freeze as a precondition to negotiations–a demand that boxed Mahmoud Abbas in as well. But now Abbas is threatening that if Obama doesn’t repeat this mistake now, Abbas is going to the International Criminal Court:

A Palestinian legislator, Ziad Abu-Amr, said Mr. Abbas would make clear to Mr. Obama that he would return to the negotiating table under either of two conditions. One is a mutual six-month freeze in which Israel halted building in West Bank settlements and Palestinians refrained from using their new observer-state status in the United Nations to pursue claims in the International Criminal Court or other agencies. The other is a broad agreement on borders, dividing the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea along the pre-1967 lines, with some land swaps to accommodate the largest Israeli settlements.

This is a remarkably petulant and inane stunt. One of the concerns held by Israel and the U.S. when the Palestinians went to the United Nations in the fall to ask for unilateral recognition was that Abbas and his cronies would go to the ICC and wage lawfare against the Jewish state–and almost certainly, as the Palestinians have themselves suggested, against Americans as well. Abbas is now proving this concern to have been well founded.

The story, by Jodi Rudoren, goes on:

“If he manages to convince the Israelis to sit and negotiate, then the Palestinians wouldn’t go to any other place — if he fails to deliver the Israelis, Abu Mazen will be forced” to go to the international agencies, Mr. Abu-Amr said, using the Palestinian president’s nickname. “If Obama goes back without any significant visible step that will revive the peace process or give hope to the parties, the visit may be counterproductive.”

Does Abbas think having his allies threaten the president this way will get results? Does he think Obama intimidates easily? He’s not going to use his meeting with Obama to threaten the president to his face, is he?

Later on in the article, Rudoren qualifies for some kind of non sequitor award when she writes:

Not far away, at the Al Bireh Youth Foundation, which was expanded in 2010 with $336,000 from the United States Agency for International Development, workers spent Tuesday afternoon erecting a covered entry in preparation for Mr. Obama’s visit. From the road outside, the Israeli settlement of Psagot is easily visible.

And? Why is it important that you can see one town from another? Rudoren doesn’t explain, and the sentence doesn’t come amid a discussion of Israeli settlements. But that’s clearly the implication, since it appears in an article comprised wholly of Palestinian grievances. Yet Psagot could serve to remind readers not of Israeli intransigence but of Palestinians’ predilection for violence. Way back in 2001, reporters were writing of Psagot’s proximity to Ramallah/al-Bireh for another reason entirely: “Since peace talks broke down last year, Palestinian gunners in Ramallah have taken aim at Psagot’s homes almost every night,” explained one report from April of that year.

And that violence was part of the Palestinian terror campaign waged in the wake of the Palestinians’ rejection of the two-state solution. It’s quite a pattern: commit widespread violence to get the international community to pressure Israel to do whatever it can to offer the Palestinians their own state with a capital in Jerusalem, then reject that offer, then shoot at every innocent Israeli civilian they can find. Lather, rinse, repeat. You’ll excuse the president for not allowing himself to be manipulated by bad-faith extortionists on his long-awaited trip to the region. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he tells Abbas that himself while he’s there.

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