Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flash: Olmert Supports Abbas's UN Bid

The following is reposted from Open Zion, a featured section of The Daily Beast, where I contribute a regular column.

Tomorrow, Mahmoud Abbas stands before the U.N. General Assembly and presents a resolution to upgrade Palestine’s membership to the status of an “observer-state.” The Obama administration has signaled that it will oppose this resolution, as it vetoed a Security Council condemnation of settlements last year—putatively to emphasize the need for direct negotiations between the parties. With the Iranian nuclear program still on the horizon, the administration is loathe call its “special relationship” with Israel into question, or run afoul of a hardline Israeli consensus, of which Benjamin Netanyahu is presumably custodian.

AIPAC is mobilized, warning of Abbas’s non-violent effort as, of all things, a “flanking maneuver.” We hear much about the danger of Palestinian diplomats, newly elevated to representatives of an observer-state, bringing action in the International Criminal Court against Israeli officials and officers linked to settlements—a back-handed acknowledgement, curiously, that settlements are seen as a contravention of the Geneva Conventions everywhere but in Israel.

In opposing this resolution, however, especially in the aftermath of the recent Gaza stalemate, the administration is foregoing the chance to reinforce the very forces in Israel and Palestine that are serious about compromise. A great many Israeli leaders and military intelligence officials understand the urgency of Abbas’s timing—of strengthening his hand—and see no reason to oppose his resolution. 

The most important is former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who engaged in direct negotiations with Abbas more than any other Israeli. Why should the administration ignore their view and let the region slide into what the latest flare-up in Gaza promised, Bosnian levels of bloodshed?

“I believe,” Olmert wrote me, intending his statement to be made public “that the Palestinian request from the United Nations is congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution. Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it. Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues. It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen and Salam Fayyad need our help. It's time to give it.”

Is Olmert just chasing the past? Isn’t the antagonism between Hamas and the Israel’s “consensus” now the only relevant reality? Nonsense. What makes Abbas irrelevant is not Hamas “steadfastness,” but his failure to garner sufficient American backing for the principles he and Olmert worked through over 36 meetings in 2008: principles for resolving Jerusalem, borders, security and refugees consistent with the positions taken by previous American administrations, but which Netanyahu refuses to accept as a basis for new negotiations.

Abbas, as a matter of fact, is going to the U.N. with Hamas’s blessing, as the Palestinian president, and head of the PLO. And the two and a half million Palestinians he has led to peaceful state-building in West Bank cities since 2006, along with the police force and private sector cultivated by Prime Minister Fayyad, represent a development path far more promising for ordinary Palestinians than missiles and endless, mutual terrorizing. Before the last round of violence, polls showed Fatah more with more support in Gaza than in the West Bank, 40% to Hamas’s 22%.

Moreover, as I wrote here before, the inconclusive end to the Gaza violence unlocked important doors for American diplomacy to push through, the way Kissinger did after the 1973 war. Egypt’s Islamist President Morsi, like the Nasserite Anwar Sadat before him, is proving to be pragmatic on Palestine, afraid to be dragged into war over Gaza, desperate for financial assistance from the U.S. and the IMF. Nothing will deepen America’s relationship with (and influence on) Egypt like cooperation on Palestine, grounded in the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

But the Israeli “consensus,” too, is chimerical. As in 1973, it is dawning on Israelis, though first on their pundits, that “deterrence,” the sheer capacity to intimidate Palestinians, is no more a security strategy than Moshe Dayan’s “security borders” were after 1967. Palestinians can’t invade or defeat Israel, that’s clear. But, equally clear, Israel can’t invade neighbors either, as in 1982—not without inviting a barrage of missiles, or inflicting levels of civilian casualties on Palestinians that neither Egypt nor “the world” will accept; not without an unbridled regional violence that will eventually topple, not only the PA, but the Hashemite throne in Jordan, bring in Hezbollah, and precipitate a new Intifada across the West Bank and among Israeli Arab citizens in Galilee as well.

The administration, in other words, could start with, say, an abstention on Abbas’s resolution in the UN, or if not that, then an invitation to the White House, and move quickly to a “disengagement of forces” agreement on the Gaza front, and a call for new negotiations over borders based on, as Obama already declared, “the 1967 lines with land swaps.” That’s exactly, Olmert knows, what could yet transform Israeli politics.

Netanyahu speaks of “reestablishing deterrence.” Israelis are not impressed. Netanyahu’s merging of the Likud with Avigdor Lieberman’s ultra-rightists—along with the victory of extremists in Likud primaries—has made him seem not only a captive of the tycoons, but of settlers and Orthodox as well. He has, inadvertently, polarized the electorate instead of capturing the center, something like what Romney did in choosing Ryan.

A majority of Israelis, granted, think Netanyahu is the best leader to deal with a tough neighborhood, which they fear. But a different majority does not want a government that exempts the ultra-Orthodox from work and military duty, threatens the authority of the Supreme Court, and pours money into the West Bank settlements while Tel Aviv is clogged. The only thing all Israelis fear as much as the neighborhood is ruined relations with Washington.

In short, what the administration has to do to undermine the so-called consensus is, as Olmert says, give Abbas a hand. It is indeed “time to give it.”


Potter said...

Our State Dept spokesperson indicated that the opposition had to do with upsetting negotiations, as though they were ongoing. Very disappointing.

So ostensibly Obama is getting behind ( hostage to) Netanyahu ( the "custodian" of the Iran issue) because of Iran's threat and our need of Israel as a first line of defense?

So yes, if Israel really wanted a peace deal with a moderate, they would support Abbas especially since this last operation proved that Hamas is a force that has grown and even they agree with this peaceful tactic.

My eyes are on Obama now. Prior to the Gaza offensive I thought that if Obama did nothing, outside pressures would push this conflict to conclusion. Hamas, with their rockets and threats for future violence are doing the pushing.

Israeli's have to take some responsibility here. They can't hide behind their fears- especially their fears of a peace deal and what should be apparent: a false sense of security.

Dan Kelso said...

Bernard question for you.
Do you support what Olmert wants which is to put the Wailing wall not under exclusive Israel control.
But to put it under some international control, including countries like Jordan, the PA and Saudi Arabia, which try to deny Jewish history in Jerusalem?
Can you tell me your views on this issue?
Do you want to give up exclusive Israeli control on the Wailing Wall like what Olmert wants?

Dan Kelso said...

Potter for 3 1/2 years Abbas has refused to negotiate with Netanyahu.
But remember, in Abbas where dealing with someone who believes insane theories about Jews.

In Abbas book, Abbas declared that the gas chambers were never used to murder Jews and dismissed as a "fantastic lie" that six million Jews had died in the Holocaust; at most, he wrote, "890,000" Jews were killed by the Germans. And they were killed, Abbas wrote, in part as a result of Zionist provocation orchestrated by Ben-Gurion from 1942. Or, as he put it: "The Zionist movement led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the government's hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination." All of this was designed somehow to facilitate the victory of Zionism.

This is who Bernard calls a moderate.
I would call this an Arab fascist liar.

Potter said...

Dan Kelso- you are stuck. Bringing up everything negative, every excuse. Abbas is a moderate and people like you are afraid of moderates. At least the terrorists, the militants you think you can fight with military action, better bombs and missiles and iron domes.

My understanding is that what Abbas wants is for the settlements to STOP before negotiations. Israel is grabbing land that is earmarked for a Palestinian state. This is not unreasonable. What IS unreasonable is Netanyahu's stumbling block that Palestinians need to state that Israel is a Jewish state. What happens to all those ( substantial numbers) who are NOT Jewish? Would Israel agree to Palestine being an Islamist state? Why does either side have to agree to these things? Why does Israel makes demands for recognition when it does itself not recognize the other side?

The settlements must stop. The last so-called freeze which Israel refers to as an opportunity missed was not a freeze.