There are always tensions here. But this seems a time in which we’re facing several troublesome issues at once.
Right now, the date on which PA President Mahmoud Abbas says he will submit a request to the UN is this Friday, September 23. Originally it had been anticipated that he would do so earlier.
His latest projection — which, quite obviously, is subject to change without notice — has him delivering a speech to the General Assembly and then submitting a letter requesting full membership in the UN to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, which would be turned over to the president of the Security Council.
Keep in mind that:
1) If this path is followed it will take days of processing and there will be no immediate results on outcome.
2) The US has committed to vetoing this request.
Abbas is currently making noises directed at the US regarding how bad it would be to veto. In a speech in Ramallah yesterday, he said that a veto would “destroy” the two-state solution. This man is a world-class master with regard to shifting responsibility for his actions on to other (usually Israeli) shoulders.
3) The Security Council does not create states, but only considers applications of states that already exist. This whole PA gambit is thus more than a bit amorphous with regard to diplomatic legalities. I may have more to say about this when next I write. Or we may not know how this will play out until it plays out.
3) The PA/PLO has made it clear repeatedly that if a state is recognized by the UN, it will not affect “right of return.”
That is, “refugees” in PA areas would still be considered just that — they would not become citizens within the Palestinian state, and would not be issued passports, but would still be awaiting “return” to Israel.
(With thanks to Dave A. and ElderofZiyon)
The PA is saying that the “right” (which actually does not exist) pertains to GA resolution 194, while the founding of a state pertains to SC resolution 242 (which in actuality called for negotiations and never required Israel to pull back to the Green Line).
This stated intention of continuing to promote “return,” it seems to me, remains the single biggest tip-off to real Palestinian Arab intentions.
There have been some very credible reports about Abbas’s desire to climb down from the tree he’s in — if only he would be able to do so without losing face. He is more than a little nervous about whether this is a smart move.
There are still frantic diplomatic efforts being expended by the US and EU to find a formula that would enable Abbas to say he walked away with a gain. One creative suggestion proposed last week by Quartet Envoy Tony Blair, for example, was that Abbas submit a letter to Ban Ki-Moon this week, but that the Secretary-General hold it until the end of the UN session, in case negotiations were able to start again before that.
However, an article in the Jpost today by Khaled Abu Toameh sheds light on these frantic diplomatic efforts:
“PLO official Nabil Sha’ath said on Saturday that the catalyst for Abbas’s final decision to seek full membership at the Security Council was a meeting with the US Mideast envoys two days earlier.
“Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, Sha’ath said that Denis Ross and David Hale presented Abbas with a document that was worded worse than one rejected by the Quartet over a month ago, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
“Sha’ath added that the document indicated that the White House accepted West Bank settlements as de facto policy.” (Emphasis added)
Abu Toameh is a reliable journalist. But he is reporting on the words of Sha’ath, as carried by WAFA. Can we — dare we — accept this as accurate? It implies a couple of important things. First, that Netanyahu has not caved. And then, that the US may have softened its stand on “settlements.” And, if this is so, I would read into it, between the lines, a weariness with PA demands.
Another way to read this, however, is to say that Abbas is playing “hardball.” He sees the eagerness of the Western world to keep him from his UN bid, and thus is holding out for the maximum he can get before he finally backs down. (And a little voice inside of me says he indeed may back down.)
On the very same day that Abbas is going to the UN, Prime Minister Netanyahu, after considerable deliberation, has decided he will address the UN General Assembly as well. What was put out was that he decided to do it in the hopes that it will have an impact that is meaningful: the world never hears the Israeli side, he says, and he intends to tell it.
Just today I’ve have received some reliable, if unofficial, information regarding the fact that we may, indeed, hear a speech from Netanyahu to be proud of. He told the Cabinet this morning that he wants to “present our truth: the fact that we are not strangers in our land and have rights in this country that go back ‘only 4,000 years’, and that we have right to preserve our security.”
The prime minister is slated to leave on Tuesday for the States, I believe, and will be meeting with Obama, I believe on Wednesday. There are no reports of plans for Obama to meet with Abbas. This also presumably tells us something. How awfully sick the president must be of this overweening petty dictator (I mean president, whose term has expired) who demands it all.
Many factors must be watched as this drama unfolds. There is the question of Arab demonstrations that become riots. And there is the issue of how Israel will respond if the PA does proceed at the UN. We need to have a great deal of courage to stand for ourselves in that event.
To make matters even more complicated, the travesty known as Durban III is scheduled at the UN for September 22.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.