(photo credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is caught in a catch-22
RELATED: PA foreign minister: Abbas awaiting ‘credible offer’
If he succumbs to US, EU and Israeli calls to abandon his plan
to seek full membership of a Palestinian state in the UN next week, he will be
condemned by many Palestinians for capitulating to outside
There are several disillusioned PA and Fatah officials who are
not happy with Abbas, especially because of the way he has been handling the
peace process with Israel, and are waiting for the right moment and the first
opportunity to pounce on him.
As one of his top aides put it on Thursday,
“The president knows that if he jumps off the ship now, he will be devoured by
Abbas needs a life jacket that will prevent him from
drowning, and something that will protect him against the jaws of the sharks,
the official explained.
Palestinian officials say these are two things
the Americans and Europeans have so far failed to provide.
are particularly angry with US President Barack Obama for failing to provide
Abbas with a ladder to climb down from the high tree.
Moreover, the PA
officials accuse Obama of misleading them in the first place by giving them the
impression that a Palestinian state would be established by the time the UN
General Assembly would meet this year.
They point to his speech at the UN
last year, when the US president declared: “When we come back here next year, we
can have an agreement that can lead to a new member of the United Nations, an
independent, sovereign state of Palestine.”
In his recent meetings with
US government officials, Abbas reminded them of Obama’s “promise” and said the
Palestinians were acting in accordance with the US president’s ostensible
Until this week, Palestinian officials said Abbas was hoping
Washington would accept his two conditions for returning to the negotiating table with Israel: a
full cessation of settlement construction and Israeli recognition of the June 4,
1967, lines as the basis for peace talks aimed at achieving a two-state
In the past few weeks, Abbas’s message to Obama and other world
leaders has been: Hold me back from going to the UN by making Israel accept the
two conditions for resuming the peace talks.
Abbas still hasn’t lost hope
that the Americans and Europeans will be able to reach some kind of a
face-saving compromise that will allow him to climb down from the high tree in a
dignified manner. That’s why he still hasn’t submitted an official application
for full membership in the UN.
The Palestinian leader is hoping daily
statements from PA officials about their determination to proceed with the
statehood bid will increase pressure on the Americans and Europeans to come up
with a formula that can be presented to the Palestinian public as a victory.
Abbas knows very well he would be doomed if he dropped the statehood plan
without gaining something significant in return.
On the other hand, Abbas
and many Palestinians are well aware of the possibility that they would pay a
heavy price if they insisted on going ahead with the statehood bid in defiance
of the US and many EU countries.
Abbas is hoping the Arab and Islamic
countries would compensate the Palestinians for the loss of American and EU
funds. In wake of the Arab Spring, he is betting on the Arab and Muslim masses,
and not the governments, which have not been financially supportive of the
Palestinians over the past two decades.
This is why Abbas, during a visit
to Cairo this week, appealed to all Arabs to take to the streets on September 23
to voice support for his statehood bid at the UN. The direct appeal to the Arab
masses is an obvious sign that Abbas is not pinning high hopes on the
governments and leaders.
But there are still many Palestinians who are
worried that Abbas is leading them toward the abyss with his statehood
The main concern is that the PA would go bankrupt without US
and EU funding, leaving more than 150,000 civil servants without salaries. Other
Palestinians are also worried about the possibility of a third intifada erupting
in the Palestinian territories as tensions mount between Israel and the PA over
the statehood bid.