Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Question for Palestinian president: Why embarrass Obama by forcing this statehood bid at the UN?

The vote’s on Friday. Hillary, Tony Blair, and other diplomats have been frantically negotiating with them for the past week to get them to reconsider — but so far, Abbas won’t bend. Gosh, I wonder why.

A poll released Monday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 83 percent of Palestinians support the unilateral declaration, and half of respondents said they would join any demonstrations that might break out in its wake.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, the prevailing sentiment is similar.

The website NOW Lebanon carried an unsigned editorial Monday asking, “Is this the Palestinian role in the so-called Arab awakening? Perhaps. The mood in the region has changed, and the Arab street appears to have teeth for once.”…

Also Monday, Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper editorialized, “Any world leader that claims to support aborted Israeli-Palestinian negotiations while opposing the latter’s bid for statehood is either a liar or a coward. Those seeking a way out of Palestine’s application are rapidly losing the benefit of the doubt.”

The west’s latest plan is some sort of compromise that would call for new negotiations to restart within a month based on the ’67-borders-with-land-swaps scheme, plus official recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a “lesser resolution” at the UN that wouldn’t quite call for Palestinian statehood but would grant them new international privileges. (Hillary’s meeting with Russia’s envoy tonight to see if they’ll sign on to make it a formal offer from the so-called “Quarter.”) Question: Can Abbas settle for that at this point when pretty much the entire Arab world is behind his brinksmanship? Answer: Can Abbas not settle for that given that the statehood ploy might very well backfire and end up benefiting his archenemies in Hamas?

The potential loss in American aid to the PA as a result of the bid could have serious fallout for the fledgling economy of the West Bank, and may undermine both state-building efforts and public confidence in the PA. The US, which currently contributes approximately $500 million in much-needed annual aid to the PA, objects to the statehood bid on the grounds that it subverts the negotiation process with Israel, and has threatened to withdraw or severely curtail these funds if the PA goes to the UN this month. Palestinians in the West Bank got a taste of what may be to come this summer, when a short-fall in aid from Arab countries prevented the PA from paying civil servants their full salaries…

The fact remains that Palestinian independence is dependent upon a negotiated settlement with Israel, and the UN campaign has made it even less likely that Israel will return to negotiations any time soon. When Palestinians realise that a changed UN status has delayed or even hindered progress towards independence, Fatah could be – potentially fatally – discredited, and Hamas emboldened.

Indeed, Hamas may seek to channel popular anger into acts of violence which could culminate in another civil war between Fatah and Hamas, or even a third intifada. With their Syrian patrons possibly on the verge of collapse, Hamas will have a particularly strong incentive to re-assert themselves as the party of resistance.

In fine Palestinian form, he’s now backed himself into a corner where he risks being catastrophically discredited no matter what happens. The only other world pol with as much to lose on Friday is, of course, The One, who may be forced to veto the Palestinians’ statehood bid in the Security Council unless he can get a majority of the other members to abstain. (In fact, the PA has been using a line from one of Obama’s UN speeches as support for its cause.) Doing that would singlehandedly defeat the purpose of intervening in Libya, which was designed to show young Arabs that the U.S. was now on their side after decades of propping up their oppressors. In a flash, the narrative would change from “America helps free Libya” to “America crushes Palestinian dream”; I wonder if even our new Islamist “friends” in Tripoli and Benghazi would use it as a pretext to turn on us. Abbas is betting, I assume, that even if he detonates U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East by forcing a veto, we’ll be so desperate to retain some goodwill among Arab states that we’ll keep the foreign aid flowing to the Palestinian Authority anyway. Either that or he really, honestly, truly believes that Obama won’t have the stones to veto the bid if it comes to that. Note to Abbas: Guess again.

Exit question: If this all goes to pot and we end up cutting the PA’s aid, who’ll fill the vacuum? Will it be Turkey, ever eager to exploit hatred of Israel to expand their influence in the region? Or will it be this degenerate, who’s hardly bothering to dress his anti-semitic tropes up in thinly veiled “anti-Zionist” code anymore?


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