July 28, 2014

Murdered Diplomacy: How the Israel-Palestinian Conflict Has Been Transformed



If the Israel-Palestinian situation is a hand grenade, the “international community” just pulled the pin and threw it away. After two decades of fragile diplomacy, all the diplomatic options are blown to bits.

Even though almost nobody in the West recognizes it yet, absolutely everything about the Israel-Palestinian conflict has changed. Or at least everything besides the material realities which leave Israel still stronger, in possession of part of the West Bank, and with the ability to act as needed to defend its security. But any talk of Israel-Palestinian negotiations, peace-process activity, compromise diplomacy, and all that stuff is meaningless now and here’s why: the UN General Assembly made the Palestinian Authority-ruled entity a non-member state. Many in the West rationalized providing supporting votes or abstentions by saying they would do no harm and would make Palestinians feel good.

While the United States voted against the resolution, the Obama administration wasted the better part of two years not battling it, certainly not fighting against it effectively, and absolutely failing to convince European allies who supposedly love Obama to vote against it.

Those of us who opposed this change explained that it means destruction of the 1993 Oslo agreement and the “peace process,” as moribund as it was, by handing the Palestinian Authority (at least on paper) everything it wanted without a single compromise on its part, without even living up to previous commitments.

Since the PA has just thrown away all the previous agreements it made with Israel, why should Israel pin its fate on some new one? Just as the PA took all the benefits it could from the Oslo agreement and then tore it up, the same thing would happen — with a far more dangerous situation resulting — with a peace treaty in which Israel pulled out of the rest of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Why is it that this issue is never even mentioned in the Western mass media or by “experts” and politicians as a central aspect of the problem?

Ironically, the more the PA gets in theory, the less it gains in practice. Only by making a deal with Israel can the PA get full possession of territory on the West Bank and define such a state’s borders and security arrangements. By refusing to negotiate with Israel or to compromise, the PA guarantees failure.

Moreover, the PA has shown itself unable to get a deal with Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, without which a single Palestinian entity — much less a state — does not exist. Historically, international law has required that a state must have a single government in control of a clearly defined territory. That situation does not exist regarding any Palestinian state.

Even more serious, however, is the fact that the UN General Assembly action took the extraordinary step of blowing up an internationally recognized and sponsored series of agreements that only an Israel-Palestinian peace accord would determine the outcome.

In addition, we pointed out that the management of this whole enterprise was feeding the PA’s notion that the “international community” was recognizing its claim to every inch of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem. And since they were entitled to all of this land, they didn’t have to compromise on anything, and didn’t need to reach any agreement with Israel. This assumption, of course, guarantees there won’t be any negotiated peace agreement at all.

In a May 2011 New York Times op-ed, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas laid out precisely what he has now done:

Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

Palestine was not admitted as a member, but the recognition of it as a state was the important part. In other words, the UN General Assembly’s action was the single most effective sabotage of a two-state solution since the Palestine Arab leadership’s rejection of a two-state solution based on partition in 1947.

Much of the media, “experts,” and Western politicians will no doubt blame Israel — and especially the Netanyahu government — for the absence of a diplomatic miracle. Though in fact, Israel’s stances have now been rendered irrelevant in this regard.

During the next four years there will not be any serious Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations, and it won’t be Israel’s fault.

In real terms, whatever they say publicly, the U.S. and European governments seem to have recognized this fact; President Barack Obama clearly understands it, too. What they fail to understand is their own responsibility for this outcome.

This is a very important point to understand.

The ridiculousness of claims by believers in “linkage” — that the Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflicts are the core issue in the region — are increasingly obvious. With revolutions and civil wars everywhere, Islamists fighting nationalists and democrats, and Sunnis fighting Shias, the conflicts involving Israel are clearly secondary at most.

Thus, telling the Palestinians that they now have a state is a way of escaping this dilemma.

You’ve got what you want, goes the message, so go away and leave us alone to deal with the important stuff. In short, this step kills the peace process, but those who did it no longer care. And it is one more case where — despite damage done to Israel — Palestinian leaders rejoice over a “victory” which ensures they are worse off than before.

We also argued that this step would lead to constant Palestinian lawsuits in the world court against Israel as aggressing against another state, and would make the Palestinian side intoxicated with the belief that it could do whatever it wanted to do; now comes an official statement from PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to that effect. From his regime’s official news agency comes the following:

PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVES TO THE FOREIGN MINISTRY TO REQUEST THE WORLD STATES TO USE THE ‘STATE OF PALESTINE’ INSTEAD OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

President Mahmoud Abbas issued directives to the PA foreign ministry to circulate to the Palestinian embassies worldwide directives according to which they should use the ‘state of Palestine’ instead of the ‘Palestinian National Authority’ in compliance with the UNGA [General Assembly] resolution on upgrading the status of the state of Palestine to a non-member observer state, and to seek recognition of the statehood from states that have not yet done that.

This article was published on PJ Media.

About Barry Rubin

Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)