“The Obama administration has announced that it will reassess its policy towards Israel in light of Netanyahu’s statements during the electoral campaign in which he abandoned his commitment to a Palestinian state made in his speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009,” writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
To justify its position, the White House spokesman said that Washington believes in the need for establishing a Palestinian state, because this is in the U.S. and Israel’s interest, as well as in the Palestinians’ interest, of course.
In order to bestow some credibility to the administration’s talk of a reassessment, the U.S. State Department’s spokesman has said that the administration may abstain if a draft resolution recognizing a Palestinian state were to be brought before the UN Security Council; and that Washington may in fact recognize a Palestinian state without waiting for the results of the negotiations.
Will the U.S. administration proceed with its threats? And what significance would this be? And what are the expected scenarios?
- In the first scenario, Washington may back down from its declared intention to reassess its policy, and the Obama administration will be satisfied with twisting Netanyahu’s ear instead. In return, Netanyahu will reconfirm his commitment to the Palestinian state, even though the administration, along with everyone else, knows that this commitment has been meaningless from the very start because he has set impossible terms for agreeing to the establishment of the state.
These begin with guarantees of Israel’s security, but do not end with the demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. In fact, Netanyahu has added new preconditions, insisting that Abu Mazin should abandon his partnership with Hamas and must choose between Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]. He has also set another new precondition, namely that Israel should ensure its security even more effectively than before because of the major changes the region is witnessing, and that it should be allowed to do so prior to agreeing to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The truth is that when Netanyahu agreed to a Palestinian state, this was a PR exercise. It was an attempt to appease the U.S. administration that was satisfied with a merely formal declaration, despite the Netanyahu government’s rejection of various initiatives, its thwarting of negotiations, its insistence on aggression and racial discrimination, its creation of occupation and legal facts, and other such measures that complete the creation of a de facto situation that turns Israel’s solution – which does not satisfy the minimum of Palestinian rights – into the sole one on the table and the only one that is politically practicable.
This scenario gains credence from the fact that Obama has given priority to reaching an agreement with Iran, something that is strongly opposed by Israel, the Republican Party, and Israel’s supporters in the U.S. He does not want to open a new front, especially as his presidential term is drawing to a close. Moreover, were he to think of opening such a front [against Israel], he would be subjected to pressure from his party and its presidential candidates, especially Hillary Clinton, who adopts pro-Israeli positions and does not wish to lose the pro-Israel votes in the coming presidential elections.
Should it adopt this scenario, the U.S. administration would be acting in accordance with the advice of [former U.S. official] Denis Ross who has written articles repeating his repugnant views that this is not the time for negotiations or solutions. Instead, he says, the focus should be on rebuilding trust and creating the appropriate conditions for resuming the negotiations. After all, he is the inventor of the thesis that the ‘peace process’ is a process without peace, and that ‘it is possible to manage the conflict, but not to resolve it.’
- In the second scenario, Obama may go ahead and carry out his threat, agree to a Security Council resolution that recognizes the Palestinian state, but without a timetable for its establishment. This is because Obama realizes that it is impossible for President Abu Mazin to accept the status quo, forcing him to activate Palestine’s membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC), implement the PLO Central Council’s resolutions calling for an end to security coordination with Israel, burdening the occupation with responsibility for its occupation, reconsidering the relationship with Israel, and proceeding with inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] reconciliation, popular resistance, and the boycott of Israel.
Based on this scenario, the situation may head towards a total collapse and an all-out Palestinian/Israeli confrontation that will have repercussions on the entire region, which is already witnessing wars, divisions, and growing manifestations of extremism.
Issuing a Security Council resolution recognizing the Palestinian state, as well as U.S. recognition of such a state, would come at a heavy price for the Palestinians. Such a resolution would adopt the American and international criteria for a settlement by including, for example, the principle of a ‘land-swap’, Israel’s security as a matter of priority and point of reference, and the effective abandonment of international resolutions regarding the [Palestinian] refugees.
Moreover, the U.S. administration may demand that a draft resolution should include a clause on Israel’s ‘Jewish character’, as appears in the draft French resolution. Moreover, the proposed resolution is most likely to be accompanied by a demand for an end to Palestinian efforts at the ICC, as well as an end to any effort to de-legitimize or boycott Israel, or isolate it and impose sanctions on it, or put it on trial for the crimes it has committed against the Palestinian people and against humanity in general.
In other words, the price of this scenario will exceed any potential gain, even though it may be presented as a massive historical victory.
- In the third scenario, the U.S. administration would do no more than turn a blind eye to European recognition of the Palestinian state and the imposition of certain sanctions that the EU has threatened to carry out against Israel, while waiting to see their impact on the Hebrew state.
But whichever scenario we may be talking about –good or bad or somewhere in between –it would be impossible to benefit from it or contain its damage as long as the inter-Palestinian split continues. In this regard, we have to warn against the initiative for a five-year truce between Israel and Hamas that is being promoted by certain Arab, regional, and international parties, in return for opening the [Gaza] airport and seaport. That would deepen the split and effectively transform it into a full-fledged secession, enabling Israel to evade its responsibility as an occupying force in the Gaza Strip.
As long as the inter-Palestinian split continues, the Netanyahu government (and any other Israeli government) will be able to absorb the damage done by any Security Council resolution, and any step taken by the U.S. administration or the EU, because Israel is the most powerful party on the ground. In light of this, priority should be given to regaining Palestinian unity, especially due the growing threats and challenges to which the Palestinian cause will be exposed.
Yes, Israel is gaining the hostility of more states with its extremism and racism. It is riling its major ally in Washington. We have to widen the gap that has appeared between Israel and its allies, as well as encouraging the contradictions within it. But the Palestinian leadership must avoid its longstanding and mistaken calculations and illusions for which the Palestinian people have paid dearly. These include, for example, the illusion that it is possible to distinguish between Israeli parties on the basis of the assumption that there is such a thing as a ‘peace’ camp in Israel. Experience has proven this to be false, most recently with the results of last week’s Israeli elections.
“We should also abandon the illusion that we can establish a state via bilateral negotiations under unilateral U.S. supervision or by proving our good will and ability or by building state institutions, while relinquishing the unity of the cause, the people and the land, and in the shadow of security coordination, economic subjugation, opposition to resistance and its abandonment before it achieves its aims,” concludes Masri.