Saturday, November 10, 2012

10-Nov-12: Diplomacy, resistance and bringing the Oslo accords to an end

Abbas Zaki speaking candidly on Al Jazeera's
Arabic edition September 23, 2011 [Video Source]
If you are interested in seeing the generations-long conflict between Jews and Arabs over the territory of Israel, Palestine and Jordan move towards a peaceful solution, you might find the developments of this past week a touch depressing.

Palestinian Authority officials went public this week with declarations that they plan to seek non-member statehood status at the United Nations over the objections of American, European, and Israeli diplomats. Khaled Abu Toameh writing in the Jerusalem Post [here] quotes Palestinian Authority officials saying the PA will ask for a UN vote soon, possibly on November 15 or 29.

Abbas Zaki (that's him over on the right), who at an earlier stage earned his living as the Palestine Liberation Organization's man in Lebanon and today serves on Fatah's central committee, is quoted this week in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Araby newspaper saying
"Once we become a recognized state, we will go to all UN agencies to force the international community to take legal action against Israel..." 
What does he mean?

Abu Toameh explains that the move "violates decades of Palestinian commitments to pursuing peace with Israel from within a bilateral framework". He quotes Zaki saying the Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel
"will cease to exist the day after the UN votes in favor of upgrading the status of a Palestinian state to non-member... November 15 marks the anniversary of the declaration of a Palestinian state in Algeria in 1988. November 29 marks "International Day for Solidarity with the Palestinians..." Zaki said that once the status of a Palestinian state is upgraded, the Palestinians would be able to pursue Israel for "war crimes" in the International Criminal Court."
Leaving the fighting words aside, there are other voices among the Palestinian Arabs who understand the downside. A TIP analysis published Friday says 
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is known to be against the move, and was even rumored to have resigned in protest of the pursuit. Fayyad is said to be concerned that Palestinian unilateralism will trigger withdrawals of American and Israeli financial support, causing severe economic contractions in the West Bank.
Financial support is one thing. But we think there's another that is more important. TIP says the PA's muscle-flexing (our expression, not theirs) raises doubts about the credibility of
repeated assertions by Palestinian leaders that their unilateral U.N. campaign is designed to enhance rather than damage peace talks. Zaki's words will more specifically reinforce concerns that Palestinians intend to use unilateral statehood a pretext for abandoning the Israeli-Arab peace process, risking widespread regional destabilization, and as a mechanism for waging diplomatic warfare against Israel, potentially politicizing and undermining international law... PLO Executive Committee member Saleh Ra'fat warned that Israeli diplomatic retaliation would permit Palestinians to "escalate popular resistance," rhetoric considered by analysts to be a euphemism for terrorism against Israel.
You might want to review some background ["Violence for adults"], courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch, about what the PA and its leadership mean when they talk about "resistance". It throws some light on what some Israelis mean when they say, with no small justification, that there is no partner on the Palestinian Arab side, for peace.

This seal is attached to the
PA's letter this week to UN States
[the letter in PDF form is here]
The PA has circulated a letter, still unpublished [you can see it online here as a PDF - hat tip to CHA and Inner City Press; and here as text], drafted by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN. It describes Palestine's non-member statehood status move and outlines the delegation's requirements. It starts with a long list of formalistic platitudes, like 
"stressing the importance of maintaining and strengthening international peace founded upon freedom, equality, justice and respect for fundamental human rights... Affirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders (etc)"
Resistance is not mentioned in their draft proposal. But it's worth noting that the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations (which issued the letter to the UN) used to be called something else [source]: the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO.

Also recall what the same Abbas Zaki said when he last made minor headlines in the global media a year ago. Here's an excerpt from his interview with Al-Jazeera, aired on September 23, 2011 [the video with English subtitles courtesy of MEMI is here]
The settlement should be based upon the borders of June 4, 1967. When we say that the settlement should be based upon these borders, President [Abbas] understands, we understand, and everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go. If Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers, and dismantles the wall – what will become of Israel? It will come to an end... Who is nervous, upset, and angry now? Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Obama... All those scumbags. Why even get into this? We should be happy to see Israel upset... If one says that one wants to wipe Israel out... C'mon, it's too difficult. It's not [acceptable] policy to say so. Don't say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself.  I want the resolutions that everybody agrees upon. 
Do you imagine the member states of the United Nations might care to see Zaki's commentary before making a decision on a PLO upgrade?

And if, against all the odds, they saw it, do you think it would change their view? Sadly, the outcome of multi-lateral debates criticizing Israel have been predictable for decades. Recall the wry insight of a past Israeli foreign minister and ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban, who said [source] with only a small degree of humour:
"If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions."

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