NO CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
The relationship between Netanyahu and Obama has never been cordial, especially after the Israeli Prime Minister sided openly with Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
But to what degree would Obama's victory be good for the Palestinians and bad for Israel? Only time will tell, although past experience with previous American presidents (Obama in particular) does not bode well and gives no cause for optimism. The Palestinians must be very wary, because Obama – who does not like Netanyahu that much and will try his best to see him replaced – will still support any new Israeli government.
It is a fact that the relationship between the United States and Israel, which is built on mutual interests, is of far greater import than to be affected by personal animosities between the President and Prime Minister.
Despite knowing all this, it seems that the Palestinian leadership still believes that disagreements between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government may affect Israel's own upcoming general election. The Palestinian leadership believes that there is a slim chance that a center-left coalition led by [former PM] Ehud Olmert could win the election, in which case an historic breakthrough on the peace front could be achieved.
The Palestinians must realize, first of all, that the only concessions they can extract from Israel (it makes no difference whether Netanyahu, Olmert, or even the leader of Meretz were PM) will be proportionate to their actual strength on the ground. Even if they manage to extract more than that, it will not be honored. That is why their only hope lies in developing a new strategy that can change the prevailing balance of power in order to restore even the bare minimum of Palestinian rights.
The Palestinian leadership must know that he who puts his faith in others will lose, because these ‘others’ will always look after their own interests and objectives and not those of those who put their faith in them.
In addition, there is a very slim chance that Netanyahu and his allies will lose the next election – and even if we assume that Olmert wins, his terms and conditions will still be unacceptable to the Palestinians. Should Olmert, or any other Israeli leader, try to ignore those conditions, he will surely fall. [Former Kadima Party leader and FM] Tzipi Livni's remark that Olmert promised Abbas more than he could possibly deliver is more relevant now than it was when the Kadima leader [Olmert] was PM, especially given the divided state of the Palestinians, Netanyahu's incessant efforts to create new facts on the ground, and the Arab world's preoccupation with the changes taking place in the region. In fact, events taking place in the Arab world reinforce Israel's position because they portray the region as one of shifting sands in which nothing can be relied on.
It was against this backdrop that the Palestinian leadership took the first step by lodging a request for UN membership with the General Assembly. The request will be put to a vote on either the 15th (the anniversary of Palestine's  declaration of independence) or the 28th (the anniversary of the  partition of Palestine) of this month. Not fixing a date shows that the Palestinian leadership is still unsure of its position. This reluctance and uncertainty were clearly visible when the leadership made its request for UN membership to the Security Council last year. At the time, the Palestinians knew that the Americans would veto their request. But they did not lodge their request with the General Assembly; instead, they wasted a whole year with no state, no resistance, no unity, and no negotiations – A year the Israelis exploited fully to pursue their racist and expansionist agenda.
Even now, the Palestinian leadership seems confused. Its decision to go to the UN is more tactical than strategic. No strategy has been put in place to deal with the likely ramifications of receiving observer status. If the Palestinians were indeed to put their request up for a vote this month (against Palestinian, Arab and international advice to postpone a vote until after the Israeli elections, lest Netanyahu and Lieberman chances be boosted), they would be doing so in order to bolster the leadership's own popularity and credibility – which were dented by Abbas' recent statements about the right of return.
The problem with this approach is that the Palestinian leadership is using the UN issue as a means to pressure Israel into returning to the negotiating table. Should the Palestinians succeed in gaining non-member state status, they would then resume negotiations unconditionally, in which case Palestine's new status would turn out to be counterproductive. The fact that the Israelis, Americans, and Europeans could well impose sanctions on the Palestinians if Palestine were to be given non-member status would make a bad situation even worse: either negotiations could remain stalled, or they could resume but without a cessation of settlement activities. Even if the negotiations were resumed, they would be negotiations for negotiations' sake, and would lead to a long-term phased solution that would ultimately liquidate the Palestinian cause.
It must be said however that Obama is unlikely to go to extremes in opposing UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. He is unlikely to stop American aid to the PA, for example, or close down the PA office in Washington. In fact, Israeli security chiefs have warned Netanyahu against taking extremely harsh steps against the PA should its efforts at the UN bear fruit. Such harsh measures would, they warned, lead to the collapse of the PA and the cessation of security cooperation with Israel. They argued that observer status would be little more than symbolic, and would not change anything in reality. The collapse of the PA on the other hand would give the Palestinians useful options. It must also be noted that Obama's hands are not totally free; he still has to contend with Congress, which is extremely pro-Israel.
The situation is worrying. The fact that the Palestinian leadership has decided to go to the UN without thinking about what is likely to happen later means that it is either sure that no severe measures will be enacted against it and that it is relying on an Arab safety net, or that it has decided to give Obama a second chance. Yet the Palestinians must consider all possibilities, and prepare for the worst. Procrastination is not an option.
There is talk that the Palestinians' 'last bullet' would be Abbas' resignation, or a demand for international protection for observer-status Palestine. But people have been talking about dissolving the PA for years without anything happening.
The Palestinian leadership must come clean with the people and consult them all with no exceptions. The solution is simple: a comprehensive dialogue in which all factions and parties, both inside Palestine and abroad, take part to discuss what has been achieved so far and formulate new strategies that can fulfil the Palestinians' national goals.
Such a dialogue should end with a new path that takes the place of Oslo, starting with the creation of a transitional leadership for the PLO that includes all Palestinian factions.