Why Obama Administration Peace Process Policy Will Be A Total Waste of Time in 2011

By Barry Rubin

Since predicting the future is hard, to say the least, it’s always interesting when one can clearly see a crisis looming months ahead of time. The usual pattern is for the impending problem to be ignored until the last minute, then it is suddenly discovered by journalists and policymakers with great astonishment.

Often, they then misdiagnose the causes of the problem precisely because they never understood why it happened in the first place.

In this case, the Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign minister–remember when the 1993 Israel-PLO agreement said that the PA wouldn’t conduct foreign policy? Ha-ha-ha–Riyad Malki says he will seek recognition of a Palestinian state in September at the UN. For many years, Malki ran the terrorist group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) on the West Bank. But it’s ok! He quit.

So far, recognition has been obtained from Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador, with Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, and Chile considered next. Of course, almost 100 countries recognized the Palestinian state a long time ago, often 20 years ago, and that didn’t change anything. Indeed, I was present when a unilateral declaration of independence was made near Algiers on November 15, 1988, by the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s parliament.

Everything the PA has obtained in the last 17 years has been due not to those diplomatic recognitions but to the 1993 agreement with Israel. To walk away from that agreement and negotiations in general would be a serious matter of violating every commitment the PA has underktaken. It tells something about the PA’s pattern of behavior and reliability in keeping agreements. But who cares, right?

More immediately, though, I have not seen a single article in any mass media outlet that makes these most simple and obvious points:

First, the PA has basically refused to negotiate with Israel for two full years, though one would scarcely know that from media coverage.

Second, this intransigence is now being parlayed into a unilateral action. The PA won’t negotiate with Israel at all. Thus, it will not have to make any commitments, compromises, or concessions. It will simply get a state on a silver platter on all of the territory it claims.

That, at least is the strategy: If the world gives me everything I want who needs you?

I have also not seen a single mass media outlet even mention that the problem here is that the Palestinians would be offered a state without having to declare that this is their final demand. In other words, as the Palestinians have always wanted, the door would be open for a second round of conflict to wipe Israel off the map.

Who will be the big loser if this happens? In theory, you would think it would be Israel. But in fact even the PA realizes that this is going to have limited effect on the ground. The PA does need Israel for many things, including, for example, helping keep it from being overthrown by Hamas and passing through needed goods.

Even PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has admitted, in the words of an AP dispatch, “that the recognition drive at the UN will not necessarily bring realization of a state. But it helps the Palestinians enshrine their demand that the 1967 borders serve as the basis for drawing their nation’s shape.”

Or in Malki’s words: “Such recognition would create political and legal pressure on Israel to withdraw its forces from the land of another state that is recognized within the 1967 borders by the international organization.”

But it won’t affect Israel very much at all. Nothing really will change.
By the way, let’s remember that contrary to international practice, the PA cannot claim to be a state in those borders because it doesn’t control that territory. And I’m referring here to the Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem, and much of the West Bank. Moreover, it is asking for recognition in contradiction to its existing treaty commitments. But again, who cares?

The UN General Assembly will no doubt accept Palestinian statehood by a resounding majority without that country making any commitments to peace, security guarantees, an end of the conflict, or anything else. Then the issue will go to the UN Security Council where the United States will veto it. Yes, President Barack Obama will do that. And so there will be no real change in the situation.

And that brings me back to my point. The big loser here is the United States. After all, why should the PA make any attempt whatsoever to negotiate seriously if at the end of nine months it can get everything it wants for free? How can the U.S. government ignore this reality?

In other words, the next nine months of U.S. policy on the peace process will be a complete and total waste of time. And nothing Israel does, for good or bad, will affect that reality.

There is, of course, something the U.S. government can do: maximum pressure on other states not to recognize; maximum pressure on the PA to drop the idea. Of course, this is not going to happen.

So, surer than the Titanic was going to hit that iceberg if it didn’t change course, the Obama Administration is headed for getting a big hole in its side and taking on considerable water. Remember, you heard it here first. And you probably won’t hear it anywhere else until about August.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

January 20, 2011 | 5 Comments »

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  1. I wish I could believe Barry here, but I’m not so sanguine.

    As I write this, I have heard reliable rumors from a pretty solid grapevine in D.C. that some left-leaning J-Street types (not J-Street, but something only a gnat’s lash to the right of the same), have been actively advising the White House on a detailed plan for evacuation of certain areas of J&S, and security arrangements.

    The idea here is for Obama to develop a package of ‘options’ (i.e., diktats) for Israel with respect to at least borders and security arrangements, while leaving ROR and Jerusalem to be dealt with later (I can hardly wait…). These will be presented soon to the Israeli leadership as an “offer they can’t refuse”.

    That is to say, either they go along with what Obama wants so he can say he’s made “progress”….or he backs the PA in the UN. At the very least, he obstains on the PA-sponsored UNSCR declaring everything Israeli east of the Green Line in violation of international law.

    What will this UNSCR involve? I don’t know if it will be Chapter 6 or Chapter 7. If it is Chapter 6, Israel can easily give them the finger, as a Chapter 6 amounts mostly to a “strong suggestion”. If it is Chapter 7, that opens the door for sanctions, and at least in theory, military power to enforce (no one has the balls to do this in the latter instance, but it does serve to justify a new Intifada; the Israel-basher crowd would have a field day with this…as if Israel doesn’t already have enough problems in the media/PR realm with respect to jusifying their own defense..).

    We are in for some very serious challenges, that is for sure.

  2. Finally, some good news for the peace process.

    I read on Arutz Sheva this morning that Arab Palestine leader Fayyad has been turned down by the Arab League when he requested funding for monies to be spent in East Jerusalem fortifying Arab property in order to bug the hell out of the Jews. The League said they wouldn’t have any money for the PA until 2013.

    I hope this means that the League has dropped the notion the Arabs will end up with part of Jerusalem. Mr. Moussa, the leader of the League, seems quite shaken by what has happened in Tunisia, with the president being overthrown and all. May they stay shaken and finally do the right things for their people.

  3. Sometime next week we have decided to declare independence. Our two younger children informed us last week. We made them some sandwiches and bought then two sleeping bags. The Arab rabble in Yesha makes just as much sense.
    Israel could easily turn some well placed screws and the irrational islamics would be left out to dry.
    They have been living out of foreign billions for years w/o developing a thing other than more loose cannons.
    The Soetoro aggregate is printing its way into a bigger bag and the “change” is nowere to be assured.
    Their “foreign” policies cum tumbles are not likely to get any better as the Arab world is in resonance and that has nothing to do with us.
    2011-12 will be fun to see.

  4. Where’s Yamit?!!!!

    It’s been very quiet around here, and I’m missing my regular tutorials on… everthing!!!!