by Elliott Abrams
Fifteen months of Obama diplomacy have undermined Palestinian autonomy.
Will proximity talks between
Two stories this week in Haaretz, the Israeli daily, make this clear. The first story recounts an interview Abbas gave Israeli TV, and notes that "Abbas said he hopes to get Arab League approval for indirect talks on May 1." The second story recycles an item from the newspaper Al-Watan in
There are two remarkable elements here.
First, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, this is a giant--even historic--step backwards. His motivations are not complex: He wants to avoidPalestinian and wider Arab criticism. As long as he follows Arab League strictures he will. But the price paid is hugely reduced flexibility, and a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future.
Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited
The Arab League Monitoring or "follow-up committee" includes Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa. This means that the influence of
Abbas is now scheduled to visit
Abbas certainly bears great responsibility for this development, but one can't hold George Mitchell and Obama policy harmless. Fifteen months of Obama diplomacy have not only badly damaged U.S.-Israel relations and produced no peace talks, they have also undermined Palestinian autonomy. It is a keen measure of the fall of American influence in the region when a Palestinian leader responds to intense American pressure to go to the negotiating table by waiting to see if Arab League foreign ministers will let him take that step.
Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for
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