George S. Hishmeh
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
September 30, 2011 - 12:00am

Hardly a week has passed since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made an impassioned plea for full Palestinian United Nations membership at the opening session of the UN General Assembly session; the two loud opponents - the US and Israel - have been lambasted by Arabs, Israelis and even some Americans.

The Palestinian president, often seen as lacking charisma and going out of his way to accommodate Israeli and US pressure, was repeatedly applauded as he highlighted the painful history of the Palestinian people after Israel was established in accordance with the UN Partition Resolution in 1947, months before Britain terminated its mandate over the Holy Land.

When the vote will take place at the UN Security Council on the Palestinian application for admission is still unclear. The US unwisely promised to veto any such resolution at the Security Council.Nevertheless, the Palestinians are determined to approach the General Assembly directly, and here none of the five big powers have power to block the membership, which will have a diminished status, with the rank of observer, but enjoy all other non-voting privileges.

Abbas stressed that he was ready to pursue peaceful negotiations with Israel, irrespective of the UN avenue the Palestinian application will follow. Regrettably, this point has not been stressed enough by all the Palestinian spokesmen travelling with the president last week.

Several analysts, Israeli and American, many of the latter Jewish, overlooked this Palestinian option - a pledge that hopefully Abbas would not abandon his quest in the upcoming days, since it puts the two negotiators on equal footing rather than the occupied and occupier, as is the case today.

After all, the Israeli occupation is illegal under international law and it is time that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comprehend that. US President Barack Obama also needs to forget about his threat to veto the Palestinian application.

When asked recently who is to blame for the continued failure of the so-called “peace process”, now about 20 years old, former president Bill Clinton was quoted (on Foreign Policy website) a saying that it is Netanyahu - whose government removed the goalposts upon taking power, and whose rise represents a key reason for lack of a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

“The Israelis always wanted two things that once it turned out they had, it didn’t seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu. They wanted to believe they had a partner for peace in a Palestinian government, and there’s no question - the Netanyahu government has said - that this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank,” Clinton said.

In a roundtable with bloggers, the former president pointed out: “The king of Saudi Arabia started lining up all the Arab countries to say to the Israelis, ‘If you work it out with the Palestinians ... we will give you immediately not only recognition but a political, economic, and security partnership,’ This is huge .... It’s a heck of a deal.”

Likewise, Obama seems perplexed. A Washington Post reporter noted that Obama is nowadays facing “a vexing diplomatic challenge: to explain how his hopes of last year [for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement] square with his opposition this year to a Palestinian bid for statehood”.

The economic crisis the US is currently facing, leading to a serious drop in the president’s popularity, and the aggressiveness of the Republican challengers in next year’s national election seem to have diverted his attention totally to internal affairs.

His serious drop in popularity among the Jewish community has reportedly led him to pick an official with the Department of Homeland security as his new Jewish community liaison. (One wonders whether he would look for an Arab-American to serve in a similar capacity within the Arab-American community.)

No matter how Obama tries to divert his attention from the Middle East, he will always find himself in a corner as a consequence of Netanyahu’s machinations.

After Netanyahu’s erroneous belief that he was triumphant in his appearance at the UN General Assembly, news filtered from Jerusalem that the city’s District Planning Committee was to authorise the building of 1,100 new housing units in the occupied Arab sector, now called Gilo, which is to serve as the Palestinian capital.

The Israeli daily Haaretz recalled this week that Obama, “referring to a plan to expand construction in Gilo, said new Gilo homes could complicate efforts by his administration to relaunch peace talks and embitter the Palestinians”.

“Obama said at the time [2009] that additional settlement building doesn’t make Israel safer. He said such moves make it harder to achieve peace in the region, and embitter the Palestinians in a dangerous way.”

Maybe Obama will now appreciate Abbas’ stance.


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