Abbas, Step by Step

As Abbas sees it, around September 2011, states which have recognized Palestine will be prepared to carry out a daring policy initiative, whose gist will be sweeping recognition for the Palestinian state in the United Nations.

Shaul Arieli
Shaul Arieli
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Shaul Arieli
Shaul Arieli

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so embroiled in internal power struggles with Avigdor Lieberman for "leadership of the right" that he believes that the absence of negotiations with the Palestinians - a circumstance that pleases most of his coalition partners - means that nothing is happening.

Netanyahu is insufficiently conscious of policy steps being taken by the Quartet for Mideast peace; and he has a real blind spot regarding the huge diplomatic effort being made now by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Diverging from the path forged by Yasser Arafat, Abbas is working toward the obtainment of international recognition for a Palestinian state by the end of the year.

Arafat, who in 1993 crossed the Rubicon when he declared readiness to trade-in the dream of a Palestine covering 100% percentof the land for a state stretched over just 22 percent of the land west of the Jordan, refrained from transforming Fatah, which was founded on the idea of armed struggle, into a movement that could give birth to a state.

True, in a letter to Yitzhak Rabin, Arafat committed himself to the relinquishment of armed struggle; yet he continued to view violence as a legitimate means of moving the process forward when negotiations became bogged down.

Arafat pretended to be the representative of the Palestinian people as a whole, but he allowed Hamas and Islamic Jihad to dictate the nation's agenda by means of terror attacks perpetrated with an intention to scuttle the peace accord he himself signed.

Arafat viewed armed struggle as the only alternative to diplomatic efforts. When Netanyahu suspended the Oslo process in 1996, Arafat returned the prime minister to the negotiating table, and compelled the signing of the Hebron protocol, and the Wye River Memorandum.

Unlike Arafat, Abbas refuses to become a "partner" to terror, despite the fact that Netanyahu is proposing a hollow negotiation process. In this way, Abbas is proving to Israel and to his own people that "there are no terror attacks, but there are Arabs."

In lieu of violent struggle, he pushes forward a two-pronged diplomatic campaign. One leg of this campaign features the building of the state-in-the-making by means of plans drawn by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; the second, supplementary, leg involves the obtainment of international recognition for a Palestinian state.

Abbas is reinforcing the sovereign power of the Palestinian Authority by carrying out security reforms, and economic-institutional reforms. He is ousting Hamas from public venues in the West Bank, restraining Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, enforcing law and order, and encouraging economic development whose focus is strengthening the middle class.

The Netanyahu government profits from security stability in the West Bank; quiet in the territories allows Israel's government to conceal the continued conflict from the public eye. Yet much to the chagrin of the Netanyahu government, Abbas' agenda is not to please Israel; he is showing the world that the Palestinians have fulfilled their obligations under the Road Map, because he expects the international community to require Israel to carry out its part.

He is carefully recruiting support in the international community. First, Abbas asked for a denunciation of Israel's settlements and building in Jerusalem; this proposal was torpedoed by the American veto in the UN Security Council.

Abbas' move, which unfolded against the backdrop of the upheavals in the Arab world, has encouraged the quartet to hold urgent meetings aimed at formulating a policy outline, one which is expected to be closer to the Palestinians' positions.

As Abbas sees it, around September 2011, states which have recognized Palestine will be prepared to carry out a daring policy initiative, whose gist will be sweeping recognition for the Palestinian state in the United Nations.

So Netanyahu can walk hand in hand with Lieberman and Eli Yishai in future Israeli elections. Yet even if he were to triumph in such elections, he is liable to find waiting for him a recognized Palestinian state, one which Abbas flew right under Netanyahu's slumbering radar screen.

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