12 July '16..
In the next few days, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization will vote on a resolution that will follow up on their past efforts to erase Jewish history in Jerusalem. The UNESCO statement, which will likely be approved by their World Heritage Committee as easily as it passed its Executive Board in April will treat the Temple Mount and even the Western Wall as exclusively Muslim sites and deny both Jewish and Christian ties to the holy places. This is considered a great triumph for Palestinian diplomacy that aims, above all, to not merely deny any connection between the Jewish people and their ancient homeland but to isolate the state of Israel in every possible forum.
As much as those efforts have continued to succeed, the reality of the new Middle East that has emerged as a result of the rise of ISIS and the Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran has worked to undermine their goal. As this week’s visit to Israel by the foreign minister of Egypt as well as the success of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s tour of Africa revealed, the Jewish state has more friends than its enemies think. More than that, the desire of the Egyptians to facilitate Netanyahu’s goal of direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority illustrates that it is Abbas and his Hamas rivals who are truly isolated in ways that count more than their meaningless triumphs in Geneva.
The willingness of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government to send Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Jerusalem makes plain Israel’s increasingly warm relations with Cairo. Sisi’s regime shares common enemies with the Israelis and the cooperation between the two nations against Hamas in Gaza and the radical terrorists operating in the Sinai is just one aspect of the change in climate. In the wake of the Iran nuclear deal, Arab governments have become open about their view of Israel as a valuable ally against Tehran as well as ISIS.
Nevertheless, Israel’s critics will point to Shoukry’s emphasis on reviving peace talks with the Palestinians as proof that Israel is still under pressure from neighboring countries to make concessions to the Palestinians. But while it’s true that Egypt, acting at the urging of the Saudis, would like to be able to produce something that would prove their good will toward the Palestinian people, Shoukry’s mission is anything but good news for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, let alone Hamas.
Shoukry’s call for direct talks between the Israelis and the PA is a crushing blow to the Palestinian strategy, which has preferred that such negotiations be avoided at all costs. The PA backed the French call for an international summit that would presumably allow them to avoid giving a direct yes or no answer to Israeli peace offers. They hope the inevitable failure of what would amount to a charade of diplomacy would serve as an appropriate prelude to another attempt to get the United Nations to approve a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood without first forcing them to make peace with Israel. They also hope that such a campaign would take place in the last weeks of the Obama presidency and would lead the administration to renege on its past promises and betray Israel with a vote for the Palestinians. But if the Egyptians can force Abbas to go to Cairo for a meeting with Netanyahu, that might forestall the PA’s UN gambit and lock them into new talks with the Israelis.
It’s doubtful that anyone in Cairo, let alone Jerusalem or Ramallah (or Riyadh, for that matter) actually thinks Abbas is willing to make peace with Israel under any circumstances. The PA has demonstrated time and again that its worst fear is to be put in the same position it found itself in during the Camp David Summit in 2000 or the meeting in Annapolis, Maryland in 2008, when first Arafat, and the Abbas, turned down Israeli offers of statehood and peace. Since it cannot recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn without being seen as betraying the anti-Zionist cause that is at the heart of Palestinian national identity, Abbas believes such talks must be avoided like the plague, and he has acted accordingly in recent years.
Unlike in the past, when Arab governments viewed support for Palestinian rejectionism as a cost-free and popular exercise, both the Egyptians and the Saudis are no longer interested in helping Abbas. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, Israel remains hated on the Arab street. But Arab governments understand that Israel means them no harm and is a useful ally against more pressing enemies like ISIS and Iran. Moreover, with the cracks in the Third World wall of isolation that were shown during Netanyahu’s Africa tour, Israel’s warm ties with former Arab enemies is evidence that Abbas is the one with few friends in the region.
The hijinks at UNESCO are evidence of the impact of the anti-Semitism that is sweeping the globe. But the idea that Israel is isolated—promoted as much by leftist Jewish critics of Netanyahu as by the Palestinians—is clearly bunk. Many in the Arab world and elsewhere have grown tired of pushing for justice for a Palestinian cause that isn’t interested in making peace with the Jewish state at a time when the old war against Zionism is a distraction from more pressing threats. That spells failure for Abbas and a not insignificant victory for a Netanyahu government that has proven that it is not the disaster for Israel that its foes claim it to be.
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