31 January '16..
At first glance, the announcement on Friday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that Paris will recognize Palestine if a new round of peace talks it has proposed fails, isn’t that alarming. As the Times of Israel points out in an analysis, such a move would make it the 137th nation to recognize a state of Palestine that is, as of the moment, a legal fiction rather than an actual sovereign country. Similar declarations from other European nations have done nothing for the Palestinian people and have, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out again, only hurt the cause of peace. But as numbingly familiar as the ritual of endorsing Palestine might be, this gesture may present a serious danger to Israel’s international position in 2016. The French gesture is not just an indication of how detached from the reality of the Middle East that Western nations have become. It could also set the stage for the last great struggle between the Obama administration and Israel and do lasting damage both to the Jewish state and its alliance with the United States.
Any sensible person that has paid even the slightest attention to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would know that a proposal for a summit and new talks right now is absurd. The Palestinians have refused repeated offers of statehood and independence that would have involved major Israeli withdrawals in the last 15 years. At every stage, they have walked away and often answered plans for a land-for-peace exchange with terrorism.
Though international observers are obsessed with the concept of an Israeli pullback from the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem as the magic formula for peace, the Palestinians have never shown any interest in such schemes. Though Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has talked at times to Western and Israeli audiences as if he supports the two-state solution, he sings a different tune to his own people. Like the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, Abbas is unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn.
Just as troubling is the fact that the putative leader of the Palestine the Europeans seek to recognize has become a leading voice fomenting terror and hatred of Jews and Israelis. His role in starting the current “stabbing intifada” when he broadcast lies about Israeli plans to harm the Temple Mount mosque has been matched by the applause terrorists who kill random Jews have gained from the PA once the current offensive started.
Abbas’s stance is motivated in part by his own rejectionism but it is also an indication of how much he fears his Hamas rivals. The mythical state of Palestine is, after all, still divided between two entities. Abbas’s Fatah kleptocracy runs the day-to-day affairs of the West Bank with Israeli security assistance that ensures his safety as much as it is intended to help suppress terrorism. Meanwhile Hamas continues to run Gaza as an independent Palestinian state in all but name. That Gaza was converted into a terrorists launching pad after Israel withdrew every settler and soldier in 2005 stands as a warning that the majority of Israelis heed. Repeating that experiment in the West Bank would be madness, not a step toward peace. That’s why even the head of Israel’s Zionist Union opposition party has given up on the two-state solution for the foreseeable future.
Given these facts, one has to ask what the French or anyone else could possibly think another attempt at a summit would accomplish? More than that, their statement that failure would result in recognition without forcing Abbas or Hamas to first make peace with Israel is merely a guarantee of continued Palestinian intransigence. They believe saying no will eventually lead to United Nations resolutions that will demand Israeli withdrawal without peace and ultimately an international boycott of the Jewish state that will bring them one step closer to the goal of its elimination.
That’s where the lame duck Obama administration comes in.
The Palestinians presume that after more talks fail and the French join the chorus of nations recognizing their aspirations, the next step will be another battle at the United Nations. Up until now every attempt to force either Palestinian statehood or a requirement for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank and Jerusalem has been vetoed by the United States. But if Security Council were to declare Israel’s continued presence in the territories illegal — something that would make a travesty of international law as well as ensuring even more Palestinian terrorism rather than peace — that would be a serious escalation of the conflict. The fact that France, a permanent Security Council member would be behind the effort might persuade Obama that the time would be ripe for an abandonment of the Israelis at the UN.
Despite the lip service he pays the relationship, Obama has been clearly itching for a chance to force Israel out of the territories in the vain expectation that this would encourage Palestinians to make peace. The administration’s endorsement of a European Union effort to label Israeli goods made in the West Bank and Jerusalem is not only hypocritical but also brings the West one crucial step closer to a boycott of Israel. A UNSC resolution on the West Bank would be the logical, if damaging, conclusion to be drawn from everything Obama has done and said about the Middle East.
Pundits may think the president would refrain from any move that could antagonize Jewish voters during the fall election campaign. But if such a resolution were to come up for a vote after Election Day in November there would be no political impediment to a U.S. move that would be the logical conclusion to an eight-year effort to delegitimize Israel’s negotiating stance and to create more “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. That’s a scenario Israel and its friends ought to be worried about far more than a meaningless gesture by the French.
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