New York - A demonstration in support of the Palestinians is a convenient and profitable activity. The administration of President Barack Obama, which is interested in speedily reducing the American military presence outside the U.S., knows that activity in favor of renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian does not require military involvement in the region. In the European capitals - especially among NATO members, embarrassed by their failure in Libya - a diplomatic confrontation with Israel over the absence of a diplomatic initiative provides compensation for their bruised egos.
The same international community, whose pathetic situation was exposed when it didn't even attempt to put an end to the slaughter of citizens in Syria, can therefore console itself with a demonstration of affection for the occupied Palestinian nation, while hurling criticism and accusations at Israel.
Even if Israel fulfills its diplomatic goal and lands the backing of 30 "quality nations" who won't support the unilateral declaration of the establishment of a Palestinian state in the UN September vote, the Israel-Palestinian conflict will still top the agenda of American and European foreign policy the morning after.
The international community will not stop bothering Israel, and the wall of isolation that surrounds it in the UN will not be lowered by a single centimeter, even if Canada, Italy, Germany and, of course, the U.S. and Micronesia vote against the declaration of a Palestinian state. Having Bulgaria and Romania join those voting against or abstaining will not change the fact that Israel is seen as sabotaging a renewal of talks.
In the UN, there is general agreement that the unilateral move will not be of any real benefit to the Palestinian Authority. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, and sympathetic Western diplomats say the arguments they are presenting to their colleagues against support for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state are being well received. Prosor says that, in particular, there is understanding for the Israeli claim that support for a unilateral move will undermine the spirit of agreements such as the Oslo Accords, the 1995 Interim Agreement and the road map. However, in the final analysis, the counter-argument is that in the absence of a diplomatic initiative from Israel, there is no choice but to support a unilateral declaration.
Reliable sources say Britain and France have not yet made a final decision as to how they will vote. Reports that they will vote in favor were designed to pressure Israel. The U.S. and Europe are waiting for July 11, the date when the Quartet convene in Washington, after which they will make a final decision regarding the pattern of their diplomatic activity in advance of the September vote.
In private talks, senior officials in Washington and New York say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could exploit the Quartet meeting for a daring move: Israel might inform the Quartet that, if PA President Mahmoud Abbas agrees to coordinate the wording of the declaration to be submitted for the UN vote in advance with representatives of the Quartet, Israel will vote in favor. If Abbas opposes that, Israel will abstain or absent itself from the voting.
President Obama and representatives of the great powers would be able to present the Israeli gesture as an offer that the PA cannot refuse, and as a basis for renewing negotiations.
"It won't happen," said a Western ambassador, who is very familiar with the mood in the Prime Minister's Office. He says that if Israel were to use the same energies as it invests in lobbying countries to oppose or abstain in the September vote, in an effort to come up with a formula that could convince the PA to renew talks, it wouldn't have reached a situation in which "a pleasant defeat" in the vote would be considered an achievement.
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