Saturday, February 19, 2011

Abbas's Intifada: Isolating Israel and Unilateral Steps

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Palestinian President Abbas has reached the same conclusion as his predecessor, Yasser Arafat -- that he will not get all of what he wants from Israel at the negotiating table; also the reason he opposes a third intifada [uprising] against Israel -- he has instead decided to take the battle to the international arena.

His Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, is basically hoping that by September, the plan's deadline, the Palestinians will have created new facts on the ground that will convince the US and the Europeans to support their unilateral declaration of statehood.

To achieve their goal, Abbas and Fayyad have chosen to embarrass and isolate Israel through a series of resolutions. Abbas's Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank and he have decided to launch a different kind of an uprising - -a diplomatic one, designed to isolate Israel in the international arena and force it to submit to all Palestinian demands.

First, they are seeking to convince many countries to back the Palestinian Authority's efforts to press war crime charges against Israeli political and military leaders.

Second, the Palestinian Authority is now making huge efforts to have the United Nations Security Council issue a resolution condemning settlements as illegal.

Third, Abbas and Fayyad have been working hard to persuade many countries to declare their recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital. Their efforts have so far been successful in South America, where several countries, including Brazil, have complied.

It is not clear at this stage how Israel, or the US, would react to the Palestinians' planned unilateralism. Israel could always argue that unilateral steps are a violation of the Oslo Accords with the PLO – a move that could pave the way for the abrogation of the agreement. In such an event, Israel would be free to reciprocate with its own unilateral measures, including annexing parts of the West Bank.

Abbas and Fayyad hope that in the next few months, they will be able to win enough support for it. These measures coincide with Fayyad's two-year plan to establish state institutions.

Israel and the US should already now state their position regarding this issue, and explain how they intend to respond.

When Arafat reached the conclusion that he would never get what he wanted from Israel through negotiations, he resorted to violence, unleashing the "second intifada" in September 2000.

His successor, Mahmoud Abbas, has since learned from the mistakes of the past. Abbas knows that the violence has been counterproductive and has caused the Palestinians huge damage.

Abbas has therefore chosen a different approach to achieve his goals. Abbas's diplomatic intifada, or offensive, is ultimately aimed at circumventing the Oslo Accords by winning the international community's recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lines.

The Palestinian Authority needs to watch its steps carefully and consider the consequences of its actions. Some Palestinians have already expressed concern that the policies of Abbas and Fayyad could have a boomerang effect on their constituents.

Those who think that a Palestinian state could be established without negotiations with Israel are either naïve or have no idea what they are talking about. Why would any country ever again sign any international agreement if it can so easily be abrogated?

Although it is true that the peace talks are currently facing a crisis, it would still be better to wait than embark on unilateral steps that would only further complicate the situation.

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Khaled Abu Toameh

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