Analysis: Abbas’s march to reelect Bibi

The PA President feels that international momentum against Israel is in his favor, and that if he keeps plugging away he can impose a solution on Israel from the outside.

Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mahmoud Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Pity poor Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, The New York Times editorialized on Thursday, “at nearly 80, he has to be tired and deeply frustrated with the failure of years of peace negotiations with Israel to achieve the Palestinian dream of an independent state.”
Not a word in the piece about his – or the Palestinians’ – responsibility for that failure, but plenty about “right-wing Israeli politicians opposing a Palestinian state and the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, steadily expanding settlements, making the creation of a viable Palestinian state harder.”
The Times acknowledged that Abbas’s decision Wednesday to join the International Criminal Court will “almost certainly make the situation worse, setting back the cause of statehood even further.”
And, it added, “By taking this tack before the Israeli elections, which are set for March 17, he has given Israeli hard-liners new ammunition to attack the Palestinians and reject new peace talks.”
According to the Times construct, the Palestinians should delay bringing Israel to the court until after the elections so as not to give ammunition to the Right.
The paper added that it is possible the crisis Abbas “provoked could bring about fresh consideration of the compromises that both sides need to make to allow their peoples to live in peace.”
In other words, the Times is saying that Abbas is forcing the Israeli electorate to think long and hard before casting its ballot in March.
If the Times believes that this type of gambit will force the Israeli public to come to the same conclusion that its editorial board has come to regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, then the paper truly does not understand the Israeli public.
The chance that Abbas’s recent moves will get the public to say “boy did we miss this boat, this Abbas fellow is indeed genuinely interested in peace and reconciliation,” is slim indeed.
By contrast, the US State Department gets it, declaring the Palestinian move “counterproductive” and saying it “badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they [the Palestinians] ultimately need to make peace.”
The PA’s threat to take Israeli soldiers to the ICC will not rally the public to continue talking to Abbas and the PA – as the Left advocates – but likely pull voters to Netanyahu’s position that Abbas does not want negotiations, reconciliation, or peace.
Abbas’s recent moves against Israel in the international arena strengthen, not weaken, the prime minister’s electoral prospects, which improved this week, though not necessarily because of anything he did.
First, the corruption scandal engulfing Yisrael Beytenu will most likely chase some voters away from that party, and those voters will not be debating whether they should go from Yisrael Beytenu to Labor, but rather Yisrael Beytenu to the Likud, Bayit Yehudi, or Moshe Kahlon’s new Koolanu party.
Second, the implosion of Shas will chase some voters from that party as well. That, too, is good for Netanyahu, because this election is about the blocs, not the parties, and the parties most capable of moving votes from one bloc to the next, from the Right to the Left, are Shas – which has done so in the past – and Kahlon’s list.
Even if disgruntled Shas voters don’t turn to the Likud, though some of them might, a truncated Shas Party means there are fewer mandates that it can take from the Right to the Left.
And the third boost Netanyahu received this week was from Abbas’s moves, which will strengthen Netanyahu’s argument among the public that the man is simply not interested at all in peace and reconciliation with Israel.
Abbas’s decision to go to the ICC precisely now strengthened the argument the New York Times editorial board will never entertain: He does not want negotiations.
The current situation is comfortable for the Palestinian leader.
He feels that international momentum against Israel is in his favor, and that if he keeps plugging away he can impose a solution on Israel from the outside.
Abbas’s moves strengthen the sense that he wants Netanyahu to win the election, if only because this will make his attempts to get the world to impose conditions on Israel that much easier. Otherwise, Abbas’s recent moves are nearly unfathomable.