The Obama administration, along with the European Union, is applying pressure on the Palestinians in Ramallah to postpone their application to the U.N. until after the U.S. elections in November. In the meantime a debate among the Palestinians rages on. Abbas is inclined towards complying with Obama’s request to delay the U.N. application while Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the P.L.O. Executive Committee disagrees, saying “There are some who might want to wait until after November because of American pressure, but the Americans have done nothing but put pressure on the Palestinians, without delivering anything.” She added, “What we need is to move fast.”
It is difficult to predict what President Obama will do if he should be reelected in November. But it is reasonable to assume that he will have a debt to repay should Abbas wait until after the U.S. elections. It is also clear that in such an eventuality Obama would pressure Israel to end all Israeli construction in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem – in keeping with the demand Abbas has already made to the U.S.
Mahmoud Abbas is raising the ante to make it impossible to reach an agreement. He knows, as Arafat knew before him (and demonstrated at the Camp David Summit of July 2000), that he must deliver on the “Palestinians right of return” into Israel, a condition that no Israeli government could possibly accept (an acceptance of which would be akin to demographic and political suicide). Abbas, even more so than Arafat, is keenly aware that compromising on the “right of return” is not merely political suicide for him, but is a certain invitation to assassination.
Moreover, with Hamas breathing at his neck and eager to expose him as an “American lackey,” Abbas is limited in his capacity to maneuver. But, this assumes that he is remotely amenable in his heart to making peace with Israel. A former deputy to Arafat’s terrorist organization and an author of a PhD thesis that is nothing less than Holocaust denial, Abbas may be bribed to a degree to make a few gestures for peace, but he will not make a real peace with the Jewish state.
The Obama administration, pushing the “peace process” as a key policy initiative in the Middle East, refuses to recognize the fact that even if Abbas returned to the negotiating table, the talks are unlikely to result in a meaningful peace. Pushing Israel to make dangerous territorial and other concessions will only encourage the Palestinians (and the Arab states) to believe that Israel can be pressured through its western friends to ultimate submission. Netanyahu must therefore learn to say no to additional conditions set by Abbas, and repeat those denials to American and European governments. Israel must not implore Abbas to return to the negotiating table. Instead it must set three basic counter conditions: the Palestinians must forego the “right of return” to Israel; they must recognize Israel as a Jewish State; and, a future Palestinian state must be demilitarized.
Abbas is certain to get his recognition from the U.N. General Assembly next September or beyond, but Israel still holds the major cards. Israel controls most of the West Bank outside the major Palestinian cities and can always exercise the option of a one-state solution in which Israel incorporates all of the West Bank.
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