To the extent that “President” Mahmoud Abbas convinced West Bank Palestinians that they have achieved some great victory it takes off the pressure for violent action or support for Hamas there. Of course, there is no popular pressure for a negotiated solution. Indeed, I’m not aware of a single Palestinian Authority official who has even claimed for cosmetic purposes that the reason for this move at the U.N. move is to press Israel to compromise or a deal. Its purpose is to make Abbas’s regime look good and be a step forward toward total victory, a Palestinian state unbound by commitments that could be used as a base for wiping out Israel.
But that doesn’t mean it will work. Today, the residents of the Palestinian Authority are still be exactly where they were. Hangovers wear off even after non-alcoholic celebrations.
You should also understand that in Israel there are no illusions about this whole charade. Few think that a real deal is possible with either of the current Palestinian leaderships—those who do have already all written op-ed pieces in the New York Times—and the U.N. action will make the public even more opposed to concessions.
Incidentally, people on both sides in other countries make a serious mistake in assessing Israel. Its enemies think it evil; many of its friends think it stupid. Both are wrong. There are real constraints in the international system, including the current government of the United States.
The solution is not to rail against this fate verbally but to assess the best course in the context of these conditions. There are many who don’t comprehend the implications of this situation. They either think Israel should endlessly make concessions or that it should win total victory by ignoring the surrounding reality. It’s amusing to see those of various political hues who are thousands of miles away pulling theories from their heads that have nothing to do with the actual events.
At any rate, the U.N. General Assembly’s action neither contributes to peace nor is a just decision. Nevertheless, once again we have a case of symbolism over substance. This is the same General Assembly that received Yasir Arafat as a man of peace in 1974 at the very moment he was masterminding terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and the following year voted for a resolution that Zionism was racism. Can one really say things have gotten worse?
During the period since then, Israel has survived and prospered. Its enemies in the Middle East have undergone constant instability and economic stagnation (except for those small in population and large in oilfields). The supposed springtime of democracy has quickly turned into just another authoritarian era of repression and disastrous policies that ultimately weaken those countries and make their people poor and miserable. What else is new?
Ignoring that history and the contemporary reality, some Western counted voting for the resolution or abstained for a variety of reasons: cheap public relations’ gain among Arabs and Muslims; a belief that this will shore up the Palestinian “moderates” against the radicals, or that it will encourage the non-existent peace process.
What it will do, however, is to sink the Palestinian leadership even deeper into an obsession with intransigence in practice and paper victories that mean nothing in the real world. And, yes, that’s what the result of this U.N. vote will be. And of course no matter what is said publicly about unity between the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip there will be no change on that front either.
In 1939, the British offered the Arab states and Palestinian leadership a deal in which they would be handed all of the Palestine mandate as an Arab state if they accepted a few simple conditions, including a ten-year transition period. Despite the pleas of some Arab rulers, the Palestinians said no, believing a German victory would give them everything soon. Almost precisely 65-years ago the U.N. endorsed the creation of a Palestinian Arab state. The Palestinians said no believing that the military efforts of themselves and their allies would give them everything soon.
The Palestinians’ leaders have long believed that an intransigent strategy coupled with some outside force—Nazi Germany, the USSR, weaning the West away from Israel—will miraculously grant them total victory. They aren’t going to change course now but that route leads not forward but in circles.
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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