This is a very important point to understand. The ridiculousness of claims by believers in “linkage”—that the Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflicts are the core issue in the region—are increasingly obvious. With revolutions and civil wars everywhere; Islamists fighting nationalists and democrats; Sunnis versus Shias; the conflicts involving Israel are clearly secondary at most.
Thus, telling the Palestinians that they now have a state is a way of escaping this dilemma. You’ve got what you want, goes the message, so go away and leave us alone to deal with the important stuff. In short, this step kills the peace process but those who did it no longer care. And it is one more case where—despite damage done to Israel–Palestinian leaders rejoice over a “victory” which ensures they are worse off than before.
We also argued that this step would lead to constant Palestinian law suits in the world court against Israel as being the aggressor against another state and intoxicating the Palestinian side with the belief that it could do whatever it wanted to do.
Now comes an official statementfrom PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to that effect. From his regime’s official news agency comes the following:
“PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVES TO THE FOREIGN MINISTRY TO REQUEST THE WORLD STATES TO USE THE ‘STATE OF PALESTINE’ INSTEAD OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
“President Mahmoud Abbas issued directives to the PA foreign ministry to circulate to the Palestinian embassies worldwide directives according to which they should use the `state of Palestine’ instead of the ‘Palestinian National Authority’ in compliance with the UNGA [General Assembly] resolution on upgrading the status of the state of Palestine to a non-member observer state, and to seek recognition of the statehood from states that have not yet done that.” On top of this the PA’s legal advisor has now declared that the P.A. no longer exists and has been replaced by the state of Palestine. He says that Israeli “occupation”–of areas that the P.A. previously agreed that Israel would continue to control until a peace agreement was reached–must immediately end. And while it is not stated directly, since the new argument is that Israel is illegally occupying the territory of another state, the demand is for Israel to withdraw unconditionally from east Jerusalem and those areas of Judea and Samaria it still holds to get nothing in return.
Hence, the official Palestinian position: There is no need to negotiate with Israel now or in future, nor is there any need to recognize Israel’s future existence to get a Palestinian state with the pre-1967 (Egyptian and Jordanian) boundaries. At last, they have implemented the plan proposed by Amin al-Husaini to Yasir Arafat in 1968 and adopted by Arafat a few years later: Get a state without being bound by any commitments for peace with Israel; then use that state to destroy Israel.
That’s of course the Fatah position, the Hamas stance is a one-step genocide.
So while the “peace process” that began in 1993 and was torpedoed by Arafat in 2000 has long been dead in practice, it is now officially and fully dead. And any talk of reviving it, promoting talks, coming up with gimmicks, blaming Israel for not giving more, etc., etc., is now thoroughly and completely obsolete. Of course, the conflict isn’t over. It’s just the diplomatic process that’s totally finished.
We have thus entered a new era of history in this regard. This doesn’t mean a return to the high-conflict, conventional or terrorist war period of the 1967-1992 period but rather something new. That most likely will be a time in which there is much hand-wringing, attempts to revive hope, continued talk of missed opportunities, and placing of blame. In fact, though, nothing much is really going to happen.
Both Israelis and Palestinians are now largely spectators watching the great battle for power within the Arabic-speaking world, a situation in which Iran and Turkey are also increasingly irrelevant. Here is the central question, whose answer we won’t know for several years but whose scenarios we better prepare for:
Will Islamist regimes in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia, put the main priority on direct battle with Israel or will they place a long-term focus on the relatively lower-cost efforts to consolidate power at home, repress their own people, transform their own societies, and try to subvert the remaining non-Islamist regimes?
About the Author: Professor 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. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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