Fully irritated and extremely convinced of the impossibility of having their aspiration for statehood realized through peace negotiations with the Israelis, the Palestinians are now packing their suitcases to go to New York for a U.N. resolution that would demand an end to the Israeli occupation of their territory in less than two years. After two decades of unfruitful peace negotiations with the Israelis and a lot of “hollow promises,” the Palestinians have the right to be frustrated and stubborn.
Frustration, dismay and rage are legitimate feelings for the Palestinians that no one should argue against, even the Americans.
However, the questions that need to be asked objectively and realistically now are: Does such a Palestinian-led effort at the U.N. really serve the deadlocked peace process? Is it really the only card in President Mahmoud Abbas’ hands? Does the Palestinian president have a Plan B in mind in case of a U.S. veto to his bid? Is the planned bid at the U.N. really a well-studied political and diplomatic plan or just a reaction and a means to squeeze Benjamin Netanyahu, benefiting from the Israeli premier’s odds with the Americans?
Another month of frustration is not that much compared with two decades of disappointmentRaed Omari
Definitely not to underestimate such Palestinian effort, but their U.N. bid as such now would add more complications to the already complicated peace process which all stakeholders, including Arabs, still want it to be on the basis of bilateral agreements.
No doubt the European rising enthusiasm on the Palestinian file, manifested in European parliaments’ symbolic recognition of a Palestinian state is a driving force for the Palestinians to seek a U.N. resolution. In fact such European bold stance on the Palestinian state is really worth-noting. Why now and why that daring and not like the American “coy” stance now? I was told why by a high-profile European diplomat. The ambassador told me that the Europeans are so concerned about the rising radicalism in the nearby Middle East which they now see as the result of the absence of a solution to the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When I asked him: “Why unlike always you now maintain a different stance from the Americans?” He answered: “Europe is very close to the terror-plagued Middle East unlike the faraway America.”
The troubling American-Israeli relationship now and the existing uneasiness between President Obama and Netanyahu is also an encouraging factor for the Palestinians, coupled of course with the world’s dismay over the Israeli unilateral measures and the internal disputes within the Israeli state. Such constitute a “must-be-seized” moment for the Palestinians. Another motivation for the Palestinians is the high level of anti-terror cooperation now between Washington and their Arab allies. All such factors constitute a “winning card” for the Palestinians at the U.N. But, it seems that an “American embarrassment” is totally missing in the Palestinian calculation on the whole issue.
The Americans are unmistakably embarrassed now. They are unwilling to anger their Arab friends and down their Israeli ally. Embarrassment cunningly covered with diplomacy was apparent in U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement at a recent press conference in London. There he was quoted as saying that no decision has been made yet by the Obama administration on how to respond to the Palestinian bid at the U.N., adding that Washington was engaged in a constructive conversation with the Israelis, Palestinians and Europeans on how to pave the way for a new round of peace talks. To avoid an embarrassing situation at the U.N., Kerry was said to ask chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to head off the Palestinian Authority’s statehood drive during their meeting in Rome. In Rome, Kerry was also said to have met with Netanyahu who asked for assurances that Washington would block efforts by Palestinians on Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders.
Pushing Washington to choose?
Perhaps the Palestinians think they can embarrass the Americans at the U.N., I don’t know if they realize that they are pushing Washington to choose between them or the Israelis. If it is not 100 percent, it is 99.9 percent that the U.S. will veto the Palestinian request at the U.N., I believe. The Americans vetoed many other Palestinian and Arab requests at the Security Council involving or not even involving Israel. This time will not be an exception. This time it is such a mega request that the Palestinians are bidding for. It demands an Israeli withdrawal and recognition of Israel as an occupation force. Unlike the Europeans, Israel has never been depicted in the American official rhetoric as an occupation force. Yes, there is some kind of allusion to that in the U.S. narrative on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict stemmed from Washington’s promotion of the two-state solution and its objection to settlement expansion in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
So, the Palestinians will come back empty-handed from the U.N. If their aim is to press Netanyahu and embarrass the Americans, they will be themselves the depressed and embarrassed. Washington has massive diplomatic capabilities to escape embarrassment, so to speak, and Netanyahu’s arrogance will increase. The ultimate outcome is that the peace process will be more complicated and we will go back to square one.
Again, I entirely understand the Palestinians’ disappointment and wrath and am completely supportive of their legitimate right for statehood, I think their bid at the U.N. would be better postponed but not shelved. It would be better if such wished-for postponement is linked to written pledges from Kerry on settlements and Jerusalem and other final status issues. To avoid more complications, the Palestinians can also demand a U.N.-sponsored world gathering on the Mideast peace process, insisting on the two-state solution as a perquisite to attend.
All in all, another month of frustration is not that much compared with two decades of disappointment. Now the Palestinians are having their voices heard with many countries now recognizing their legitimate right to statehood. They can invest in these new influential allies and push for their irreversible demand for an independent state.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2SHOW MORE