As I previously reported, the search is on for a diplomatic way out of the blowup that would ensue (diplomatically and potentially on the streets of the West Bank) if Mahmoud Abbas pressed his case for a unilateral declaration of statehood for the Palestinians. Up until now it has been the European Union and the Obama administration that have been struggling to find an alternative.
Now the Palestinian Authority, or at least some elements in the PA, seem to have joined the effort. ABC News reported:
The Obama administration is facing a clash on the international stage this week, with a Palestinian push for United Nations statehood recognition heading for a likely American veto.
But on ABC’s “Top Line” today, the head Palestinian representative to the United States, Maen Rashid Areikat, told us he’s still hopeful that a “viable alternative” will emerge that can avert the showdown, with assurances from the international community that peace talks with Israel can be put back on track.
“We are simply trying to change the political paradigm and get things moving forward so that we can end the conflict, based on a two-state solution,” Areikat told us.
There’s plenty of hooey in that pronouncement. Emanule Ottolenghi of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies e-mails me: “The Palestinians are lamenting the lack of a peace process as a reason for their UN bid. Considering that they rejected three peace offers in the last ten years and refused to negotiate for the last two years, they sound a bit like the boy who killed his parents and then asked for leniency from the judge on account of being an orphan.” He observes that this is “a slap in the face of President Obama, because it seeks to internationalize the conflict, undermine US mediation efforts, and supersede both the Oslo accords and UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is the foundations of 44 years of international diplomacy for the Middle East.” He continues: “It is a reckless act — and the claim, so late in the day, that the PA is still hoping for a bridging proposal is just empty last minute brinkmanship to extort more concessions from the US and Israel before negotiations begin.” Or perhaps the PA has finally gotten nervous about the consequences (a cut-off in U.S. funding, expulsion of PLO officials from the U.S., empowerment of Hamas, etc.) that would flow from a U.N. vote.
Ottolenghi’s FDD colleague Cliff May suggests that we shouldn’t get too excited about a capitulation by the PA. “Amidst a fairly formidable European campaign to avert a diplomatic crisis, the Palestinian position appears to be softening — for the moment. The problem is that the Palestinian position keeps shifting.” Moreover, it’s not at all clear who is actually speaking for the PA. He tells me that “there is not one Palestinian position any longer. The one position we need to be watching is the position of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. He is the one who is driving this issue, and he is the one who has manufactured this crisis.” He cautions: “So, until we know what he plans to do, and until he gives his assurances that he is keeping to those plans, the UDI [unilateral declaration of independence] is a story that remains fluid.”
In all of this the administration could greatly assist matters in making clear to the PA and the rest of the “international community” the grave and dangerous downsides of a UDI vote. Does the august U.N. General Assembly really want to recognize a state co-headed by Hamas terrorists? Are the U.N. members prepared to deal with the violence that may follow a vote? Moreover, the administration should make crystal-clear to the rest of the PA leadership that following the soon-to-retire Abbas down this rabbit hole may advance his personal interests but will be a setback for them and for the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, Obama has squandered his credibility with both sides. But maybe Germany can ride to the rescue.
UPDATE (8:40 a.m.): Mitt Romney, continuing his effort to speak in unequivocal, bold tones released a statement on the UDI: “What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster. It is the culmination of President Obama’s repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position. That policy must stop now. In his speech to the U.N. this week, President Obama must unequivocally reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the security of Israel and its continued existence as a Jewish state. And he must make clear that if the Palestinian Authority succeeds in gaining any type of U.N. recognition, the United States will cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians, as well as re-evaluate its funding of U.N. programs and its relationship with any nation voting in favor of recognition. Actions that compromise the interests of the United States, our allies, and all those who desire a lasting peace must have consequences.” Yup.