A short time after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas landed in New York, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ) expressed a widespread feeling in the Palestinian delegation regarding U.S. President Barack Obama: "Were Martin Luther King to rise from the dead and see how a black president is waging an all-out war against the rights of the Palestinian people," opined Tibi, "he would choose to return to the grave."
This week, Obama has replaced Benjamin Netanyahu, and is playing the part of the bad guy in Palestinian perception. The supporting actor in this capacity is Quartet delegate Tony Blair, who is viewed by the Palestinians as a representative of the U.S. government beholden to the mission of scuttling Palestinian statehood recognition.
After the Palestinians rejected the "compromise proposal" that Blair presented to Abbas this weekend, Obama stepped up his full frontal attack against the Palestinians. The U.S. president wants to bury the Palestinian initiative in the United Nations without having to get his hands dirty by casting a veto in the Security Council. Why should he take the risk of annoying the Saudis if he can get rid of the statehood resolution by utilizing the UN's serpentine procedures?
When the United States wanted UN action on the Republic of South Sudan, UN procedures lasted no longer than one week. In contrast, with regard to a resolution that is liable to alienate the U.S. Congress, UN procedures can be manipulated so that the proposal is battered for several long months. At the same time, the Americans are mobilizing their political and economic leverage so as to put together a majority of nine Security Council members who are opposed to the statehood resolution - a move that would force the Palestinians to accept a General Assembly decision to grant them a state status equivalent to that enjoyed by the pope's residence.
As a result of contacts with European leaders, Abbas is aware that the American Goliath does not want to win a victory on points, or on a technical knockout. Obama is trying to persuade "quality states" in Europe to vote against the statehood resolution, or at least to abstain, in the General Assembly. As of Monday, the United States and the Palestinians are both trying to "win everything."
The "compromise proposal" delivered to Abbas, via Blair, calling on the Palestinians to limit their effort to the General Assembly, is essentially a recycled version of a formula endorsed by Obama last July. The proposal stirred consternation among the three other Quartet partners, who eventually rejected it. The proposal contains not even a hint about a settlement freeze. It limits final status negotiations to a 12-month period, but grants Israel the authority to cease talks the moment it is dissatisfied with the actions of the Palestinian side (especially in the security sphere ).
The proposal refers to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the state of the Jewish people; the new state's borders would not be the 1967 lines, and they would take into account demographic realities in the field. In other words, the July-Obama/Blair proposal enjoins Palestinian recognition of the legality of the settlements without requiring an Israeli commitment to a territorial concession comparable in size and quality.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership is not disclosing the final formulation of the statehood recognition resolution to be brought to the UN. The scant information available indicates that the Palestinians will ask for recognition of a state in the 1967 borders, whose capital is East Jerusalem, and which will live in peace alongside the State of Israel. The resolution will refer to the Arab peace initiative of 2002, which offered Israel normalization in the region in exchange for withdrawal to the 1967 lines, and called for a just, agreed-upon solution to the refugee issue.
This Palestinian formulation could embarrass countries such as Iran and Syria. In the UN, they will have to choose between a vote against the state of Palestine, or the conferral of recognition, of sorts, to the State of Israel in the 1967 borders.
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