There is not much to be said for the Obama administration’s charm offense to sidetrack the Palestinian Authority bid to “seek recognition" as a state at the forthcoming UN General Assembly this month.
Promises for renewed peace talks with Israel in lieu of a UN blessing of a Palestinian state fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, with 24 hours, Palestinian Authority president rejected them out of hand. Did president Obama seriously think that Mahmoud Abbas would commit political suicide by accepting his proposal?
Although the US had long announced that it would veto the PA’s elevation to “non voting status” at the UN, the Americans had done their sums and come out wanting in votes to defeat a vote in the General Assembly. Recognized as an “non observer state”, Palestine would then “join dozens of UN bodies and conventions”, enhancing thereby its ability to pursue Israel before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for violation of human rights and illegal seizure of land on the West Bank and in Arab East Jerusalem and establishing settlers on Palestinian land.
Obama gave his campaign to persuade the PA to drop its plans, a good, old college last try. Did he expect it to work? We do not think so. So whom did the president hope to impress?
Surely, not the Israeli government. It already had girded its diplomatic loins for defeat. The right wing Likud government of Bibi Netenyahu is suspicious of the Obama administration since his speech at Cairo University in June 2004 calling for a “new beginning” in US Arab and Muslim relations, and in spite of the glaring evidence that the US back Israeli adventures to the hilt and dispensed with a large hand billions in military and economic aid, much of which is forgiven.
And let’s not forget Israel’s refusal to stop settlement building, nor Netenyahu’s rebuff of Obama’s giving new life to the Green Line as a bargaining chip in arriving at a two state solution. The Green Line, recognized by the ICJ, set Palestinian territory within 1967 boundaries; they include the West Bank, Gaza, and Arab East Jerusalem.
The American president resurrection of the Green Line will strengthen the Palestinian case when it comes before the UN. It is an anathema to Netenyahu who in a disdainful snub to the president ripped off the veil of Israel’s intention to negotiate with the PA by calling the West Bank “Judea and Samaria”, a revisionist Zionist goal of a “Greater Israel” from the Mediterranean to the Jordan based on biblical sources.
The Palestinians do not expect much from the Obama administration either. It has proven itself timid in making Israel live up to its commitments of a two state solution. In fact the Palestinian File of 1600 Israeli Palestinian documents, released by al Jazeera in January 2011 portray America’s role of arm twisting the PA to accede to Israeli demands, thus weakening its own case.
So who is the target of Obama’s initiative with the PA? The American people. Israel is a domestic issue, and favoring Israel brings in votes and campaign contributions.
The president weak tea approach to a two state solution has raised serious doubts of his and the US’ commitment to a strong, viable Israel. Although his wooing of the PA failed, he really did not think it would succeed. So to snatch victory from defeat at the UN, he staged shoddy political drama. Was it worth the effort? If anything it makes him look like indecisive, though it might have been worth the effort. The real threat comes a crisis between Turkey and Israel that is causing Obama more wool to thread than fear of violence in the West Bank, for the PA coordinates its strategy with the Israeli defense forces. And in the end, the US quietly accepts Palestinian recognition by the UN.