IN A meeting with President Obama last March, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to accept a U.S.-brokered “framework” for the creation of a Palestinian state. The U.S. draft would have backed key Palestinian demands, including a stipulation that the territory of the future Palestine be based on Israel’s 1967 borders. Had Mr. Abbas signed on, the momentum toward statehood would have greatly accelerated, and Israel’s government would have been placed under enormous pressure to put forward reasonable terms.
Instead, having refused to respond to Mr. Obama. Mr. Abbas is now pushing yet another quixotic attempt to have the U.N. Security Council impose Palestinian terms for a settlement on Israel. On Monday, Arab diplomats said they were reluctantly going along with a Palestinian demand to introduce a resolution to the Security Council — though Arab opposition may force a postponement of the Tuesday vote Mr. Abbas wants. The draft would set a one-year deadline for the conclusion of negotiations and mandate the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank by the end of 2017. Over the weekend, its language was toughened so that a reference to Jerusalem as the “shared capital” of the two states was changed so that Jersualem is mentioned only as the Palestinian capital.
Not only does this text have no chance of being approved — notwithstanding the tensions between the Obama administration and the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the United States would exercise its veto, if necessary — but the Palestinians’ support on the Security Council is weaker this week than it probably will be next month after a membership rotation. Yet Mr. Abbas appears ready to insist on failing, just a few months after turning aside a U.S. initiative that had at least some chance of delivering the state he says he wants.
What could explain such maneuvering? Some diplomats suspect Mr. Abbas wants his maximalist resolution to be voted down — just as previous Palestinian attempts failed to obtain the necessary eight of 15 votes. By not forcing the United States into a veto, the Palestinian leader could preserve his lines of communication with Washington while obtaining a pretext to move on to his next pointless initiative — which could be seeking Palestinian membership in the International Criminal Court.
Accession to the court wouldn’t bring Palestinians any closer to statehood, and it might expose the Hamas movement to war crimes prosecution. It could cause Congress to cut off the U.S. aid that now sustains the Palestinian Authority. But Mr. Abbas and his aides have recently been suggesting they would have “no choice” but to proceed if they obtain no satisfaction from the Security Council.
Mr. Abbas does, of course, have a choice. He could endorse the framework laboriously negotiated by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and challenge Mr. Netanyahu — or his successor after Israel’s upcoming election — to resume negotiations. Statehood would then be on the table — but the 79-year-old Palestinian leader would have to commit himself formally to compromises he has until now discussed only in private with U.S. and Israeli leaders. Rather than lobby at the United Nations, he would have to attempt for the first time to sell those concessions to his own people.
Mr. Abbas has, on several previous occasions, dodged that challenge. So no one should be surprised if he now insists on losing another vote at the United Nations.
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