The attempt by the Palestinians to introduce a resolution for statehood in the fall of 2011 was pretty much doomed from the start because the Obama administration had promised to use the veto power in the UN Security Council to block passage. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas decided to introduce the resolution despite the enormous pressure being applied by the United States. Abbas had hoped to “jump-start” the peace process negotiations on the solution of the conflict with Israel but his failure sends a message that moderates and moderation have no ability to advance the peace process, leaving a hard-line campaign premised on violence as the only feasible path to take. Defeat of the Palestinian efforts at the United Nations has returned the negotiations to a frozen state.
The United States has castigated the Palestinian leadership for seeking a back door entrance to statehood through the United Nations Security Council. Yet, Israel achieved statehood through United Nations auspices.
The possibility of a breakthrough in Israeli/Palestinian negotiations is very dim because the Israeli public seems to be generally satisfied with the status quo; also, most members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet do not hide their opposition to Palestinian statehood and they openly advocate Israel’s retention of the occupied territories. Danny Danon, a Likud member and deputy speaker of the Knesset, has called on Netanyahu “to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank.”
Benny Begin, a member of the so-called Septet, Netanyahu’s seven-member, inner security cabinet, has said: “The establishment of a foreign independent sovereign state headed by the PLO in parts of the Land of Israel stands in opposition to the basic ideas that are supported by a majority of the Knesset: the absolute historic right of the Nation of Israel to the Land of Israel and the right of the State of Israel to national security.”
The Arab Spring has inspired hope and vision among Palestinians that they might gain self-determination and human rights; conversely a more democratic Arab world reduces Israel’s room to maneuver and it provides a ray of hope in cracking the current negotiating paradigm of U.S. control, Israeli dominance and Palestinian retreat. Once more, Israel has lost an ally with the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.
One specific change in Israel’s plans attributed to the Arab Spring is the calling off of a major military assault on Gaza in retaliation for the August 18 infiltration that killed eight Israelis. It was reportedly put off because an assault would look particularly heavy-handed in light of the hope of a less authoritarian world inspired by the Arab Spring.
W hat Should Obama Do or Have Done?
The major tenets of an Israeli/Palestinian settlement promoted by the United States should include: 1) a two-state solution with each side accepting the full sovereignty of the other; 2) the end of Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem — negotiations between the two states would determine what happens to the existing settlements; 3) the division of Jerusalem into two spheres of control; 4) compensation for those who can demonstrate that they or their immediate families lost their homes in what is now a part of pre-1967 Israel.
There is a proposal to create a Middle Eastern Economic Investment Authority once a two-state solution is fully implemented and that should be given serious consideration.
The United States can exercise maximum leverage by withholding all economic and military aid from whichever side is proving to be an obstacle to plan implementation. A cutoff of military aid would almost certainly affect only Israel.
In regard to nuclear weapons, the United States should be putting pressure on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; also, working to make the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone could make Iran more amenable to ending its own efforts to get a nuclear bomb.