Abbas’ Strategy: Get a State While Skipping Over Peace

December 18th, 2010 at 9:05 am David Frum | 12 Comments |

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Breaking news from South America: Argentina, here Brazil and Uruguay have recognized an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

In practical terms, pharmacy this news means almost precisely nothing. The Palestinian Authority currently supports a “special delegation” in Brasilia and another in Buenos Aires. The men holding those jobs will now presumably get a little uptick in their protocol at diplomatic receptions. Nice for them, advice but not exactly a world-shaking event.

As Jackson Diehl has pointed out in the Washington Post, the UN General Assembly voted to create an independent Palestinian state all the way back in 1988. Within months of that vote, 93 countries had recognized “Palestine.” The Brazilian, Argentine and Uruguayan recognitions bring the total to 104.  So — meh.

But some hope that the Argentine, Brazilian and Uruguayan action is a prelude to a more significant act: a vote in the UN Security Council to recognize Palestine, a vote that the Obama administration is somehow prevailed upon not to veto.

Writing in The New York Times this week, Robert Wright proposed:

The United Nations created a Jewish state six decades ago, and it can create a Palestinian state now. It can define the borders, set the timetable and lay down the rules for Palestinian elections (specifying, for example, that the winners must swear allegiance to a constitution that acknowledges Israel’s right to exist).

This suggestion is not one writer’s lone brainwave.

According to many reports, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is contemplating just the action that Wright describes: requesting a UN Security Council vote to “create Palestine.”

Such a vote is not very likely to happen. The United States could and would veto it. (On Wednesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to urge President Obama to veto any such UN move. The vote was unanimous. And that was the outgoing Democratic-majority House.)

But the UN approach reveals something important about the Palestinian Authority strategy toward Israel:

From the beginning of the Obama administration, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate directly with Israel. Indirect discussions have stumbled along without result. Abbas has insisted he cannot talk without a settlement freeze. Then when he gets his settlement freeze, he explains he still cannot talk.

The beauty of the UN approach is that it provides a perfect excuse never to talk to Israel again.

The UN approach may never achieve anything. It may leave the Palestinian people stuck in a frustrating status quo. But anything is better than a deal that would require a Palestinian leader to acknowledge the permanence of Israel. Back in 2000, Yasser Arafat told Bill Clinton that signing a treaty with Israel would cost Arafat his life. Abbas seems to have reached the same conclusion.

(It’s worth noting that the Irish Republican leader Michael Collins said exactly the same thing about the 1921 Anglo-Irish treaty that created the Irish Free State. Collins signed anyway, because he valued his own life less than his nation’s independence. For Arafat, those priorities were always reversed.)

You might imagine that a Palestinian leader would wish to be the one to achieve independence and statehood for his people. But that goal seems to be subordinate to a higher priority: never to be the one who tells his people that they must live alongside Israel rather than overtop Israel’s ruins.

And so the hunt is on for ways to postpone a settlement, prolong the conflict and extend the hope that Israel will collapse. It’s like the last days of imperial Japan, when every official of the Japanese state knew the war was lost, but none dared say so. Alas, in Palestine, there is no Hirohito to break the taboo — admit that the war “has not developed necessarily to our advantage” — and seek the best peace he can get.

Instead it’s off to Turtle Bay to seek some new way around the inescapable truth of the situation. Perhaps there will be another round of Fatah-Hamas civil war. Perhaps another surge of terrorism against Israel and Jewish targets worldwide. But these methods of violent so-called resistance will fail, bequeathing only another generation of Palestinian disappointment and resentment.

Still, it’s not a total loss: at least there will be a clutch of new ambassadorships to distribute.

Originally published in the National Post.

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • tommybones

    “Such a vote is not very likely to happen. The United States could and would veto it.”

    And that is why, in a nutshell, so many Muslims want to target us.

    “But that goal seems to be subordinate to a higher priority: never to be the one who tells his people that they must live alongside Israel rather than overtop Israel’s ruins.”

    Except this is not true, but when does Frum ever state the true opinions of Palestinians? Never.

    The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 percent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 percent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine.

    But why let facts get in the way of being an Israeli-worshipping neo-con propagandist?

  • nikhil_gupta

    The degree to which all your writings on Isreal ignore how Israeli religious fanatics illegally seize Palestinian land, and how this is problematic for the farmers they throw stones at to prevent them from harvesting crops and making a living. How does a state exist while another systematically takes its land. None of your writings address this. None of your writings even contain a throw away sentence about how you feel some sympathy with the Palestinian people but you still think this because of x, y or z. Much of your writings express subtle contempt for Muslims and Arabs in general. I ignore it because your writing is fantastic. But I don’t have to like it.

  • Neocon David Frum Distorts Reality To Create An Anti-Palestinian Narrative « AlterPolitics - Progressive Blog For Politics, World Issues, Arts & Entertainment

    [...] George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum just posted pure pro-Israel propaganda on his blog, Frum Forum.  In it he attempts to outline why a UN Security Council recognition of a [...]

  • ProfNickD

    Just another Arab dictatorship in the making — the whole culture is a total write-off.

  • barflea

    Until the Palestinian’s have their own homeland, there will be no peace. I do not believe Israel has been negotiating in good faith. Our unequivocal support for Israel is one reason we are so hated around the world, the alternative to a Palestinian state is years more of terrorism.

  • politicalfan

    Small piece of the pie gets represented. The situation is more complex.

  • tommybones

    “Just another Arab dictatorship in the making”

    If the U.S. has anything to do with it. That’s been the U.S. foreign policy in the region since Eisenhower. To wit:

    President Bush wasn’t the first President to ask, “Why do they hate us”? President Eisenhower posed the same question to his National Security Council, which outlined the basic reasons: The U.S. supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is “opposing political or economic progress” because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region. The interest in controlling the resources of the region, which the State Department dubbed the “greatest strategic prize in history,” as explained by then Head of the State Department Policy Planning staff George Kennan, was to have “veto power” over our industrial rivals.

  • ProfNickD


    Eh, you mean you’re blaming the existence of both pro-American and anti-American dictatorships on the U.S.?

    There’s never been democracy in the Middle East, regardless of any variable (the U.S., Israel, the UN, the Cold War, etc.) — democracy and liberty are not ideals that Arab culture accepts… not to mention art, literature, science, property rights, equality, and, well, humanity.

  • tommybones

    Um, what? The U.S. has supported dictatorships in:

    Saudi Arabia

    No such thing as a democracy in the Middle East? Here’s a history lesson for you:

    In 1953, the CIA backed a military coup (with help from the British Secret Service) that deposed the democratically elected Iranian parliament, which resulted in the installation of a brutal dictator (and CIA puppet) who repressed the Iranian population while catering to the United States multi-national corporations for the better part of 25 years. It need not be mentioned how we would react if another country backed a coup that overthrew our own democracy, forcing us to live under a ruthless dictator for several generations, while systematically stealing our precious resources. The Iranian government in ’53 was one of the most modern and progressive in the entire region at the time, but alas, they planned on using their greatest natural resource for the good of the Iranian people and not U.S. oil companies, so they had to be overthrown and replaced with a tyrant.

    Get a clue.

  • lessadoabouteverything

    You never laid out precisely why the veto of the UN resolution is necessary other than pointing out why it will happen politically. Beyond this countries develop internationally based on recognition. For decades Taiwan was viewed as the legitimate leadership of China but over time people came to grips with the fact the Commies were not going anywhere and while we do not like them, we should recognize them. You also do not need the recognition of your neighbors to validate your existence. Montenegro, Kosovo, many of the countries in what was once Yugoslavia obtained their independence and statehood regardless of Serbian attitudes, and in regards to Bosnia or Kosovo there are still many problems there.

    Israel can not forever survive in the status quo without betraying their essential nature of a Liberal Democracy. Maybe this recognition might be the kick in the ass to both sides. Israel can certainly withdraw to the areas they suggested under Barak and Clinton and force effective independence on the Palestinians.

  • Carney

    tommybones, again with the Mossadegh martyrdom wailing. The reality is that no Mideastern country could or would have done a thing with the oil under its feet without those dreaded Western multinational corporations partnering with them. By twisting socialists’ schemes to seize, BY FORCE, property that does not belong to them, and living up to a freely entered contract as “stealing” someone else’s “precious natural recources” (which, again, would have been so much unaccessed underground glop), you seem sweepingly indifferent to notions like respect for other’s property, one’s word being one’s bond, etc.

    And, as usual with anti-Americans, you carefully ignore broader context and proper perspective. The Shah’s regime did not remotely compare to the Ayatollah’s in brutality and repression.

  • tommybones

    Poor Carney. Amazing how ignorant one can be yet still spout off as some sort of an authority on all sorts of topics in a public forum!

    Let’s unpack his response a bit:

    “The reality is that no Mideastern country could or would have done a thing with the oil under its feet without those dreaded Western multinational corporations partnering with them.”

    Ah yes, how nice! “Partnering”! Of course! That’s what the U.S. does when they back repressive regimes! They overthrow a democratically elected government and then “partner” with the dictator they install! Who could possibly have an issue with that?

    ” By twisting socialists’ schemes to seize, BY FORCE, property that does not belong to them, and living up to a freely entered contract… ”

    Of course, “freely-entered contract”! Never mind that this “contract” was with the previous dictatorship and British puppet! Same M.O., different western power pulling the strings! We got a great look at this type of activity in Venezuela recently. Chavez wanted to rid the country of the oil contracts of the previous administration, once again a CIA puppet, and have the oil actually belong to the people of Venezuela, finally. So he passed new laws nationalizing the oil industry and agreed to pay each and every foreign oil company fair market prices for their holdings, instead of just “seizing them by force.” What did the U.S. do? Why the usual, of course! The CIA bought of several Venezuelan military commanders and staged a coup! Never mind that Chavez was elected in a landslide free and fair election! Luckily, the PEOPLE of Venezuela rose up and drove the coup participants out and restored their democratically elected President.

    Notice too, how the will of the Iranian people play absolutely no part in Carney’s world. They democratically elect a government, which subsequently nationalizes the oil industry (a decision, in fact, inspired by Britain nationalizing their steel industry the previous year–should someone have overthrown the British government and installed a dictator?) and Carney feels that election should therefore be overturned, the elected leadership murdered and replaced with a puppet dictator! Long live Democracy, eh Carney?

    “you seem sweepingly indifferent to notions like respect for other’s property”

    Says the guy supporting CIA-arranged deals with ruthless and corrupt dictators. These deals effectively take the most valuable resource away from the locals and give it entirely to U.S. and other western oil companies. Yet, somehow, I’M the one “indifferent to notions like respect for other’s property”! Amazing.

    “The Shah’s regime did not remotely compare to the Ayatollah’s in brutality and repression.”

    And he finishes with this gem. Notice he doesn’t compare the U.S. dictator with the democratically elected government he replaced! You know, the moderate, progressive government which sought to better the lives of the citizens of the country before being murdered by the CIA backed coup.

    I spent Thanksgiving this year at the home of an Iranian-American. He is in his 60′s and lived much of his early adult life under the Shah. He told how his father was a political rival of the Shah and because of that, he was murdered. Then, he and his siblings were taken from their mother and sent to live with one of the Shah’s supporters. They were told that their mother left them because she didn’t love them. She was warned never to attempt to contact her four children or risk death. Only after escaping the country, did he find his mother and ultimately the truth. But yeah, the Shah wasn’t so bad.

    That was a 1st hand account, told to my face only last month, chief.

    Ever wonder why the U.S. controls part of Cuba? Oh yeah, they signed a “contract” with yet another puppet government in the early part of the 20th century. In Carney’s world, that contract is binding in perpetuity, regardless of the will of generations of Cubans. Once a deal is struck with a puppet dictator, the subsequent generations must honor that corrupt arrangement or risk having their leadership removed and controlled by yet another puppet! Amazing arrogance.