Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflicts enter new era
PA President Abbas, UN Secretary-General Ban Photo: reuters
The UN General Assembly made the Palestinian Authority-ruled entity a non-member
state. Many in the West rationalized their votes for this promotion, or their
abstentions, by saying this would do no harm and would make the Palestinians
While the United States voted against the resolution, the
Obama administration wasted the better part of two years not battling it,
certainly not fighting against it effectively, and absolutely failing to
convince European allies, who supposedly love Obama, to vote against
Those of us who opposed this change explained that it means the
destruction of the entire Oslo agreement and the “peace process,” as moribund as
it was, by handing the PA (at least on paper) everything it wanted without a
single compromise on its part, without even having to live up to previous
Ironically, the more the PA gets in theory the less it gains
in practice. Only by making a deal with Israel can the PA get full possession of
territory on the West Bank and define such a state’s borders and security
By refusing to negotiate with Israel or compromise, the PA
Moreover, the PA has shown itself unable to get a
deal with Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, without which a single
Palestinian entity, much less a state, does not exist. Historically,
international law has required that a state must have a single government in
control of a clearly defined territory. That situation does not exist regarding
any Palestinian state.
Even more serious, however, was the fact that the
UNGA action took the extraordinary step of demolishing an internationally
recognized and sponsored series of agreements that only an Israel-Palestinian
peace accord would determine the outcome.
In addition, we pointed out
that the management of this whole enterprise was feeding the PA’s notion that
the “international community” was recognizing its claim to all of the West Bank,
the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem without the tiniest exception. The message
being received, then, is that the PA never has to compromise on territory but
can demand all of it, thus guaranteeing that there will be no successful
negotiated peace agreement.
So, since they could now claim to have a
state and all the territory in question there was no need for any future
negotiation by the PA with Israel, and certainly no need for any compromise
whatsoever, on anything.
In other words, the UNGA’s action was the single
most effective act of sabotage against the two-state solution since the
Palestine Arab leadership’s rejection of a two-state solution based on partition
The accuracy of this assessment is now apparent. I’ll predict
that during the next four years there will not be any serious Israel-Palestinian
peace negotiations at all. In real terms, aside from rhetoric, the US and
European governments seem to have recognized this fact; US President Barack
Obama clearly understands it, too.
This is a very important point to
understand. The ridiculousness of claims by believers in “linkage” – that the
Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflicts are the core issue in the region –
are increasingly obvious. With revolutions and civil wars everywhere; Islamists
fighting nationalists and democrats; Sunnis versus Shias; the conflicts
involving Israel are clearly secondary at best.
Thus, telling the
Palestinians that they now have a state is a way of escaping this dilemma.
You’ve got what you want, goes the message, so go away and leave us alone to
deal with the important stuff.
In short, this step kills the peace
process – but those who did it no longer care. And it is one more case where –
despite damage done to Israel – Palestinian leaders rejoice over a “victory”
which ensures they are worse off than before.
We also argued that this
step would lead to constant Palestinian lawsuits in the world court against
Israel, which would be accused of aggression against another state, and
intoxicate the Palestinian side with the belief that it could do whatever it
Now comes an official statement from PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to
that effect. From his regime’s official news agency comes the following:
“Presidential Directives to the Foreign Ministry to Request the World States to
Use the ‘State of Palestine’ instead of the Palestinian
“President Mahmoud Abbas issued directives to the PA foreign
ministry to circulate to the Palestinian embassies worldwide directives
according to which they should use the ‘state of Palestine’ instead of the
‘Palestinian National Authority’ in compliance with the UNGA resolution on
upgrading the status of the state of Palestine to a non-member observer state,
and to seek recognition of the statehood from states that have not yet done
So while the “peace process” that began in 1993 and was torpedoed
by Yasser Arafat in 2000 has long been dead in practice, it is now officially
And any talk of reviving it, promoting talks, coming up with
gimmicks, blaming Israel for not giving more, etc., etc., is now thoroughly and
Of course, the conflict isn’t over. It’s just the
diplomatic process that’s totally finished.
We have thus entered a new
era of history in this regard. This doesn’t mean a return to the high-conflict,
conventional or terrorist war period of 1967-1992, but rather something new.
This most likely will be a time of much hand-wringing, attempts to revive hope,
continued talk of missed opportunities, and placing of blame. In fact, though,
nothing much is really going to happen.
Both Israelis and Palestinians
are now largely spectators watching the great battle for power within the
Arabic-speaking world, a situation in which Iran and Turkey are also increasingly
irrelevant. Here is the central question, whose answer we won’t know for several
years but whose scenarios we had better prepare for: Will Islamist regimes in
Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia put the main priority on direct battle with
Israel or will they place a long-term focus on the relatively lower-cost efforts
to consolidate power at home, repress their own people, transform their own
societies, and try to subvert the remaining non-Islamist regimes?
and rhetoric indicate they will come after Israel, but that is not in itself an
answer. How soon will they make this switch, or will their aggression remain
mere talk? How much risk will they take, and what kind of resources will they
spend? How effectively will they work together? And how much, if any, effort
will they put into helping Hamas take over the PA?
As for the PA itself, it
might well remember the words of Bob Dylan: “She knows there’s no success like
failure/ And that failure’s no success at all.”
The author is the
director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
(www.gloria-center.org), and blogs at The Rubin Report
(rubinreports.blogspot.com). He is a featured columnist at PJM
(www.pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin), and the editor of the Middle East Review of
International Affairs (MERIA) journal.