The deafening silence in Washington on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ heroic defiance of the Obama Administration’s efforts to kill of the Palestinian bid for United Nations full membership leads me to an obvious conclusion: The White House has put tremendous pressure on everyone within their reach to go silent. No doubt, similar efforts from AIPAC and others are bolstering this top-down effort to pretend that last week’s events in New York never happened. Of course a few brave voices like Henry Siegman did not buy into the omerta, but the vast majority of people who should have commented on the Obama capitulation to Bibi Netanyahu have so far towed the line.
This is both unfortunate and foolhardy. The die has been cast, and there will be a vote—sooner or later—at the UN Security Council. It may, if the Obama Administration has its way, take months for that showdown vote to occur. But it will occur, and likely, in the meantime, the PA will win General Assembly approval for non-member observer state status. This will give the Palestinians access to the International Court of Justice and other UN bodies. I know that senior Israeli Defense Force officers are very unhappy at the prospect of having to restrict their overseas travels, based on pending complaints and threats of arrest or interrogation.
The behavior of President Obama in New York—his patronizing scolding of the Palestinians in his address to the General Assembly, his pressure on Security Council member states like Nigeria, Gabon and Bosnia Herzegovina, to abstain from a Security Council vote on Palestinian full UN membership, and worst of all, his groveling with Bibi—cannot be swept under the rug. An apparently deep rift has opened between Washington and Paris, after French President Sarkozy offered an alternative mediation to Washington’s hardline stance against any Palestinian action at the UN. President Obama, according to my White House sources, pitched a fit that the French are suggesting that all roads to Middle East peace do not pass through Washington. Europe is deeply divided over the fate of Palestine. Saudi Arabia stepped in on the eve of the General Assembly to provide the PA with $200 million and a promise of further Gulf states aid, thus offsetting the Israeli freeze on tax payments to the PA and the anticipated U.S. Congress cut off of aid.
The next step is uncertain, but clearly the events in New York City last week and this will be looked back upon as a watershed. The U.S.-led Middle East peace process has been shown for what is has been since at least the day that Bill Clinton left office, and maybe earlier: all process and no peace. Abbas has, for the moment, emerged from the shadows of the late Yasser Arafat and established himself as a leader in his own right. It was a deft political move. The PA and Fatah are strengthened. All of the good will that President Obama garnered from his Cairo speech in 2009 and his address to the same UN General Assembly in Sept. 2010 has been squandered, ostensibly in order to retain a few Jewish votes and the hope of continuing AIPAC largess. I doubt he will realize either.