This Time He’s Serious?


On the heels of a UN speech that pissed off Israel to no end by accusing the country of committing “genocide,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is circulating a draft Security Council resolution that would compel Israel to withdraw from all occupied Palestinian lands by November 2016. The resolution is almost guaranteed to fail by way of a US veto, but Colum Lynch examines the strategic thinking behind the move:

The Palestinian strategy is driven by two basic assumptions, according to senior diplomats. The Palestinians believe they can never achieve agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state as long as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in power. At the same time, they doubt that President Barack Obama is prepared to invest the sufficient personal political capital needed to even revive meaningful peace talks. “They don’t believe they can make a deal with the Israelis as long as Netanyahu is president,” said one senior Western diplomat who maintains close contacts with the Palestinians. “They want to tell the international community that they have done everything on the diplomatic front.”

Juan Cole outlines the stakes for Israel:

If the US does veto the resolution, then Washington is clearly saying that it is all right with American elites if Israel goes on stealing Palestinian land on a vast scale and expropriating and oppressing the stateless Palestinians under its boot. In that case, Palestinian circles are suggesting that Mahmoud Abbas will have no choice but finally to go to the International Criminal Court to charge Israel with crimes against humanity (i.e. systematic war crimes). This step is serious, since the US cannot block the ICC and any judgment it delivered against Israel would be taken seriously in the European Union and many other countries.

But Shlomi Eldar considers this a mistake by Abbas, who he says is alienating badly needed allies among moderate Israelis:

The man who chose a different path than the twisted road of predecessor Yasser Arafat, and a totally different route than the rival Hamas movement, did not succeed in convincing the Israelis of the veracity of his intentions. Thus, as far as he is concerned, Abbas is embarking on a new path, his last path — a diplomatic battle to persuade members of the UN Security Council to support the establishment of a Palestinian state and its acceptance into the various UN organs. Thus, he will also attempt to placate Palestinian public opinion, which demands indicting senior Israelis responsible for the “genocide,” (according to Abbas and his advisors).

But this new path of Abbas also does not guarantee success. In fact, Abbas has almost no chance of making it to the finish line after fulfilling his promises to his nation. The UN will not determine the borders of a Palestinian state and cannot force Israel to accept conditions for withdrawal and evacuation of settlements, certainly not to partition Jerusalem. The UN will not be able to grant Abbas a Palestinian state on a silver platter.

But Ben White doesn’t see much anything new in Abbas’ threats:

Much of the Palestinian leadership’s strategy for the past two decades has been based on the assumption that “good behaviour” will convince the US, as well as European nations, to back Palestinian independence and call time on Israeli occupation. This has proven to be a dismal failure, and it remains to be seen whether another plan based on the idea of “embarrassing” the White House into declining to use its veto will be successful.

Mr Abbas’s headline-generating accusation of genocide thus actually spoke more about his weakness than his strength. Despite the grandstanding, Mr Abbas’s decisions to date indicate that he still views the ICC and other tools available to the Palestinians as cards to be played or held back for the sake of a bankrupt peace process, rather than as elements of a more comprehensive strategy for liberation and decolonization.

Ali Jarbawi proposes that Abbas also threaten to dissolve the PA, as a way of making Israel and the world take the situation seriously:

The international community must be convinced to move beyond managing the conflict to solving it. This will not happen until Israel and America fear that the situation within Palestine and Israel will deteriorate. And this will only happen if Mr. Abbas declares that he will dissolve the Palestinian Authority unless there is a set time frame to end the occupation.

As it stands, the Authority performs a role that comforts Israel. Israel gets the Authority to keep it safe through “security cooperation,” while Israelis are absolved of responsibility for their occupation while avoiding its costs. Indeed, until Mr. Abbas takes a tangible step toward dissolving the Authority, the international community, especially Israel and America, will not take him seriously, and his demands will remain nothing but complaints.

In any case, Haviv Rettig Gur notes, Netanyahu is ready with a counteroffensive:

For Israel, the Palestinians now present two choices, and hope to box Israel in with these choices: Hamas’s permanent war or Abbas’s maximalist (in Israel’s view) demands backed by the threat of international isolation. In response to this Palestinian “plan of attack,” Netanyahu has begun a subtle strategy of his own — one which addresses the other side’s internationalization with his own version of the same.

“I think that there are opportunities. And the opportunities, as you just expressed, is something that is changing in the Middle East, because out of the new situation, there emerges a commonality of interests between Israel and leading Arab states,” he told President Obama in the White House on Wednesday. … If the Palestinians won’t parley, Israel would take the Palestinian issue to the larger Middle East — where Netanyahu believes, particularly after the Egyptian experience in Gaza, that there is little more than rhetorical sympathy for their cause.

(Photo: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas sits after addressing the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 26, 2014 in New York. By Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)