Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is convinced that the yellow brick road to a Palestinian state runs through UN headquarters in New York. As he makes his way, Abbas projects an image of being totally in charge of the Palestinian people. He even reconciled with Hamas and forged a unity government this past April, after ditching peace negotiations with Israel.
Much of the world has accepted this political mirage. At the UN, where a virtually assured majority will support whatever the latest PA ploy is, an increasing number of countries agree with his approach of avoiding direct contact with Israel, apparently considering it a sound strategy for achieving a two-state solution and permanent peace. Abbas came very close to scoring another “victory” on December 30, when the UN Security Council took up a resolution setting a timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state. But Nigeria’s abstention denied the necessary ninth affirmative vote for adoption, and the US did not have to use its veto.
The vote took place in haste by a show of hands, without any discussion beforehand.
The meeting was extraordinarily brief “considering the gravity of the matter at hand,” noted US Ambassador Samantha Power. She denounced the proposed measure as one-sided and utterly unhelpful to the peace process.
“We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo,” Power told the Council after the vote. “We voted against it because we know what everyone here knows, as well – peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must be made at the negotiating table.”
Honesty regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a rare commodity in international forums. Most Security Council members – both the eight voting in favor and the five that abstained – justified their positions by expressing frustration with the deadlocked peace process. But it is the US that is rightly frustrated with the PA. It rejected Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals in April to extend the ongoing peace talks with Israel, partnered with Hamas, ignored US objections to offer the resolution at the Security Council, and then applied for membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC), where Abbas will use yet another international organization to go after Israel.
As a result, the PA now risks losing vital American aid.
Abbas seems not to care. Confident that internationalizing the conflict is better than engaging Israel, Abbas delivered a vicious speech before the UN General Assembly last September in which he accused Israel of waging a war of genocide, and compared Israel to Islamic State. The US was a lonely voice criticizing Abbas, calling his speech “provocative” and “counterproductive.”
Nonetheless, support for Abbas and the PA in international forums resurfaced in the run-up to the Security Council vote.
All 22 Arab countries had agreed to back the Palestinian strategy to secure UNSC endorsement of its quest for statehood.
Jordan, the only Arab country currently on the Security Council, presented the resolution, even though it harbors deep suspicions about a possible Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Even more dangerous for peace prospects, however, is the shifting posture of European countries. The French ambassador explained his “yes” vote as support for a Security Council role that would help advance the peace process, dovetailing with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s calls to impose a timetable for negotiations aimed at establishing a Palestinian state.
“To save the two-state solution,” explained Luxembourg’s ambassador, representing the other EU member state voting in favor of the resolution, “the Security Council must, toward that end, play a more active role.”
Britain’s ambassador expressed “deep regret at having to abstain,” and pledged to work with others on “a resolution that would command full Security Council support.”
Will the US be the only permanent member of the Security Council exercising a firm “no” vote in opposition to this Palestinian charade? World powers should be honest with themselves, and especially with Abbas.
They should acknowledge that the road to peace lies between the Israeli government in Jerusalem and the PA in Ramallah. Only direct, bilateral negotiations will produce sustainable peace.
Until Abbas is confronted and challenged, he will continue to lead his people, and the world, on a road away from peace with Israel. Even if the PA succeeds next time in securing at least the nine votes necessary to provoke a US veto, this diplomatic exercise will not bring peace any closer.
For all the efforts taken and underway to make achieving peace harder, Abbas and his international enablers share honors of shame.The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.