Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and his chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Since the failure of the latest round of peace talks in May 2014, the Palestinian leadership has renewed its international strategy to achieve statehood. Its efforts have focused on joining international institutions such as the International Criminal Court and gaining support abroad for its political positions. While the Palestinian leadership has achieved some successes, such as kick-starting the French initiative, more recently it has experienced a number of setbacks with its international partners.
The first took place in early June, when the Western and Other Group nominated Israel to serve as chairman of the United Nations (UN) Legal Committee, one of the six permanent UN General Assembly (UNGA) committees. The Palestinian leadership strongly opposed the nomination, and with the support of Yemen brought it to a vote in the UNGA.
However, a majority of the assembly – 103 out 175 voting members – casted its ballots in favor of Israel, awarding it the committee chairmanship. The result constituted a great disappointment for the Palestinian leadership and revealed that it cannot rely on a number of UNGA members including a few Arab states, traditionally supportive of the Palestinian leadership.
Another major setback took place in early July, when the Quartet issued its long-awaited report on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The report sharply rebuked the Palestinian Authority for not taking sufficient steps to end incitement to violence. In particular, it said, “The Palestinian Authority should act decisively and take all steps within its capacity to cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including by clearly condemning all acts of terrorism.”
The conclusions of the report signified a resounding loss for the Palestinian leadership.
They placed the PA in the defendant’s seat and reaffirmed that the United States, European Union, the United Nations, and Russia will not hesitate to criticize Palestinian policies regardless of the former group’s frustrations with Israel.
Finally, the most recent setback occurred when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a number of African countries in mid-July to open a new era of relations with African countries. Netanyahu met with a number of African leaders, including Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, to discuss relations on political and economic issues. Overall, Netanyahu received a warm welcome from the African leaders and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta even vowed to try to restore Israel’s observer status at in the African Union.
The visit demonstrated that African countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement, which has historically supported Palestinian positions, are prepared and willing to advance relations with Israel even if no progress on the peace process is made.
Despite the various setbacks, the Palestinian leadership is motivated to push back continue to advance its international strategy. In fact, PA President Mahmoud Abbas just met with a number of African leaders yesterday and today in Kigali, Rwanda, and delivered a speech to the African Union’s 27th Summit. He plans to visit a number of other African countries this week and then to head to Paris to consult with French President Francois Hollande on the French initiative.