ON MY MIND: Palestinian mirage

The G-77’s extraordinary decision last July to elect to its presidency an entity that is not yet a state gave an unprecedented boost to the Palestinian mirage.

PERMANENT OBSERVER for the ‘State of Palestine’ to the UN Riyad Mansour addresses a recent Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
PERMANENT OBSERVER for the ‘State of Palestine’ to the UN Riyad Mansour addresses a recent Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Mahmoud Abbas has a mantra: keep repeating the words “State of Palestine,” persuade other leaders around the world to join in the refrain, and then, magically, a new country will materialize.
“I can no longer see a convincing reason for the continued delay of recognition of the State of Palestine by some countries,” a miffed Abbas declared in his address last month to the UN General Assembly. And he praised Colombia for becoming the 139th country to announce such recognition of the mirage of a state that in fact does not yet exist.
Political rhetoric has always been Abbas’s preferred mode of operation. Why bother with the nettlesome details of negotiations with Israel when he continues to be welcomed by top officials in capitals around the world, and delivers speeches at the European Union and the UN. Few, if any, of the presidents and foreign ministers who met with Abbas on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting in New York pressed him to return to peace talks with Israel.
One exception was Tzipi Livni, the last Israeli foreign minister to engage in direct talks with the Palestinian Authority – the proper name, by Israeli-Palestinian agreement, of the entity Abbas heads. She and Abbas met, ostensibly by chance, in New York prior to his GA address. But her appeal to Abbas to reengage with both Israel and the US was for naught.
The record of Abbas’s actions belies his General Assembly statements that “We are not against negotiations” and “have never rejected negotiations.” Abbas walked away from Israel’s two-state peace proposal in 2008, and he abandoned the direct bilateral talks with Israel facilitated by the US in 2014.
Abbas’s expressions of support for a two-state solution ring hollow so long as the PA continues to avoid meeting with Israel, especially so since last December, when he declared the United States unfit for any role in the peace process. He seems incapable of grasping that comprehensive peace, and a real Palestinian state, cannot be achieved without the full cooperation of Israel, that the US has been and remains essential to any Arab-Israeli peace agreements, and that both Israel and the US have long endorsed the vision of a negotiated, two-state solution to the conflict.
Abbas’s mind is elsewhere, singularly focused on the tally of countries recognizing his imaginary state. At the GA, he went so far as to urge the US and the United Kingdom, in concert with other nations “that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to accelerate this long-overdue recognition.”
Many countries have indeed enabled and actively propagated this Palestinian self-delusion. In 2012, an overwhelming majority of UN member states voted to grant Palestine non-member observer state status at the General Assembly, after the Palestinians failed to get the nine Security Council votes needed to secure UN recognition of their state. That led to membership in UNESCO and other UN bodies, furthering the mirage of a Palestinian state.
Now, as Abbas reminded the world in his General Assembly speech, on January 1, 2019, the “State of Palestine” will begin its one-year chairmanship of the Group of 77. Founded in 1964 to advance the economic interests of its members, this body today consists of 134 nations, constituting the largest voting bloc in the UN General Assembly.
Like other apolitical international fora, the G-77 has allowed political issues to seep into its agenda that are not germane to its economic development mission. Ironically, Abbas undermined Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minster in 2007-13, who had the foresight, experience, and respect to build and invest in the institutions and economic base that will be essential on the day that peace talks successfully conclude and a functioning, legitimate state emerges.
The G-77’s extraordinary decision last July to elect to its presidency an entity that is not yet a state gave an unprecedented boost to the Palestinian mirage. Abbas’s General Assembly speech raised the curtain on his priorities chairing the G-77.
“I urge you to support the request to enhance the State of Palestine’s status during its tenure and to allow it to exercise its full responsibilities on behalf of this group,” Abbas told the GA.
Will Abbas try again to secure UN Security Council recognition of Palestine? Will he seek a resolution to expel Israel from the General Assembly, something the Palestinians and their allies unsuccessfully tried in the 1980s?
There is, of course, another alternative. He could stop wallowing in negativity and rejectionism and leverage the wide support the Palestinians enjoy internationally to return to the table and negotiate earnestly and honestly.
Tragically for the Palestinian people, Abbas, at age 82, in the 14th year of his four-year term as PA president with no heir apparent, has evidently made his choice. He will not be the leader to deliver a real Palestinian state. Instead, the Abbas legacy will be a list of nations that took the easier path of endorsing a vision without clearly thinking through the consequences.
Israelis and Palestinians who want to live in peace and security side by side with each other will be the losers. That’s the ultimate legacy of Mahmoud Abbas.

The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.