Analysis: PA’s hesitance to jump at Kerry deal reveals Arab League’s loss of clout

Palestinian leadership displays grassroots mindset that time and world opinion on their side, will eventually wear Israel down.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinians’ apparent inability Thursday night to say “yes” to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks shows that the Arab League is, in the words of a stereotypical teenager, “so yesterday.”
The well-intentioned Kerry invested a lot of time and effort getting the Arab League on board and behind his initiative. He invited representatives of that body to Washington in April and made much of their willingness to adjust their 2002 peace initiative to include “moderate” land swaps.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry gambled, would only move if he had backing, and who better to give that backing than the 22-member Arab League.
But that was yesterday’s thinking, or rather thinking from the last decade.
The “Arab Spring,” and the convulsions shaking the Arab world, have stripped the Arab League of its power and influence.
As The Washington Post editorialized recently, “Mr. Kerry banks on the support of Arab states, but two of Israel’s Arab neighbors have no functioning government, while the other two – Jordan and Lebanon – have been all but overwhelmed by the spillover of refugees and fighting from Syria.”
One of the key by-products of the Arab Spring was the loss of all authority in the Arab world.
Once Egypt was a spring of legitimacy, a source of authority.
No more. Now there is no source of legitimacy.
On Wednesday, the Arab League representatives gave full-throated backing to Kerry’s efforts.
“The Arab delegates believe Kerry’s ideas proposed to the committee today constitute a good ground and suitable environment for restarting the negotiations, especially the new and important political, economic and security elements,” they said in a statement from Amman.
With this green light, many assumed, the road was paved for Abbas to give a resounding yes. But those who assumed that the Palestinians would jump on Kerry’s offer once the Arab League gave its blessing misread the mood on the Palestinian street.
There, where the Arab League has disappointed time and time again, not a whole lot of stock is placed in what the foreign ministers of countries that have not delivered for them really think.
The PLO’s failure to grasp the Kerry offer is the Palestinian leadership responding to its grassroots, and the message filtering up from the grassroots is that time is on their side, more can be extracted from Israel and why enter into negotiations with a man they genuinely dislike and do not trust: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Kerry thought that the Arab League backing would impress the Palestinians. But this backing from countries on the ropes like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen impressed no one. It simply does not matter.
The Palestinians will do what they want, and what they want is to continue their struggle because of a sense that time and world opinion – as evidenced by the current brouhaha over the new EU settlement guidelines – is on their side and will eventually wear Israel down until it gives them what they want.
Kerry put his money on the Arab League, but that horse is no longer a determining factor in this race.