Israel celebrates a bit of success this week, and the Palestinian Authority takes steps that could lead to its collapse
Dear Friend of Israel, Friend of FLAME:
As you know, Israel is so often attacked in the world press and so harshly criticized by other nations---especially the United Nations---that it's rare we are able to report victories and successes all in one week. Yet, thanks in no small part to Israel's supporters (like you!) in the United States, the Jewish nation has enjoyed a respite from bad news recently and was even able to score a few points on the world and national stage.
First, the much publicized Gaza Flotilla II, which was to have sent numerous ships carrying some 1,600 pro-Palestinian "activists" from a range of countries to try again to break Israel's naval blockade . . . failed miserably.
Due to legal and diplomatic maneuvers on Israel's part, not a single flotilla ship was permitted to approach Gaza. Some ships were halted because their insurance carriers pulled coverage due to extraordinary danger. The United States and the European Union publicly called the flotilla counterproductive and urged their respective nationals to withdraw, some even threatening legal action. Several ships were forced to quit because of "mechanical problems," rumored to have been caused by unknown saboteurs.
But the greatest foil to the ill-begotten flotilla was the government of Greece---newly aligned with Israel, now that its arch-enemy, Turkey, has taken a pronounced pro-Islamic and anti-Israel turn. Greece prevented numerous ships from departing its harbors, and its coast guard even pursued and turned around at least one ship that "escaped" from its shores.
Even more important, thanks to concerted information campaigns by Israel and its supporters, numerous media reported on the fact that Gazans are actually thriving relative to other Arab peoples---shopping centers opening, new cars arriving, food markets full. In other words, there's simply no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the flotilla was organized only to attack, isolate and delegitimize Israel.
Here's more good news, closer to home: Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 286, which urged President Obama to oppose the Palestinian effort in the U.N. to achieve unilateral recognition as a state, to encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel, and to warn that a unity government with Hamas will not receive U.S. funding. Thanks in part to friends of FLAME who contacted their representatives over the past weeks, HR 268 passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 407-6. Our action made a difference. What's more, our earlier effort to mobilize support for a similar measure in the U.S. Senate, SR 185, passed that house by unanimous consent the previous week. Yea!
Finally, it would also seem that international support for the Palestinians' end run around peace talks in the U.N. is faltering. While 100 or more Third World, Arab and Islamic countries can be expected to support the recognition motion in the General Assembly in September, many influential European nations---the Netherlands, Germany, Italy---are already announcing their opposition. Of course, a General Assembly vote is non-binding and not a legal declaration, and any binding motion before the U.N. Security Council will surely be vetoed by the United States.
The consequences of this sure-to-be-failure of the Palestinians in the United Nations is the subject of this week's FLAME Hotline. Dr. Guy Bechor, an Israeli Middle East expert who heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, explains why these desperate moves by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not only fail, but also threaten to bring the Palestinian Authority crumbling to the sand.
Abbas headed for disaster: Unilateral declaration of independence will likely lead to Palestinian Authority's collapse
It's hard to understand, but Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is heading full force into his own collapse, and that of his Authority, in September.
It's already clear that a Palestinian state will not be established. New states are only established through a Security Council decision, and the United States already made it clear in the most explicit way that it would impose a veto on a unilateral Palestinian move, just like Russia did in the case of Kosovo.
Indeed, since 2008 Kosovo is a state in its own eyes, yet it is not a UN member. This week, the Americans sent a special envoy to warn Abbas. The Europeans did the same, yet he insists on rushing towards the wall.
Abbas' people fail to make a distinction between UN legitimacy, which they can obtain via the support of more than 100 states (most of them from the Third World) that would vote for them in the General Assembly, and acceptance as a UN member, which they will not be getting.
Their disappointment may be immense and destructive. Palestinian violence may result and possibly focus on Israel, but also turn domestically, against the Palestinian Authority that prompted the failure.
Why could this turn into a collapse? Because Abbas is endangering the relationship of his fragile Authority with the US, with Israel, and with the European Union. At this time already, America is furious over the Authority's pact with Hamas, and should the PA act against the wishes of the great superpower it may lose American support, thereby collapsing diplomatically and economically.
Hamas and Fatah no friends.
Meanwhile, Israel already warned that should the PA seek to establish a Palestinian state, the Oslo Accords shall be annulled. In this case Israel would no longer collect Value Added Tax on behalf of the Authority, and that would mean that the immense monthly fund transfers to the PA and to Gaza shall draw to an end. The Authority will then collapse within a week or so. Moreover, Arab states are not enthusiastic about handing over money either.
Another issue is Hamas, which objects to Abbas' move and characterizes it as a "fata morgana" [ed., a mirage, optical illusion] Should a state not be established, we shall see the reemergence of the major Fatah-Hamas dispute, which both sides are seeking to blur at this time in order to secure a state. Under such circumstances, a violent clash may again erupt, as was the case in 2007 when Hamas expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip using brutal violence.
The sides are already having trouble setting up a government of experts, despite the reconciliation declarations, so how will they co-manage an independent state that is wholly dependent on Israel?
The Palestinians are also contradicting the new spirit in the world at this time, one of negotiations and agreements, by attempting to force a unilateral move upon the other side. Abbas' declaration that no Israelis will reside in his future state stunned the West. Moreover, many states don't like this unilateral move: After all, tomorrow the Kurds may take a similar step against the Turks, Tibet against China, the Sunnis in Iran, and so forth.
And so, a tactical move utilized as a psychological pressure tactic against Israel in the framework of talks turned into a strategic Palestinian step that has become inseparable from the PA's fate. Before it's too late, Abbas would do well to reexamine the planned September move and return to the negotiating table with Israel. At this time he has the lower hand, after the West took Israel's side, and he does not have many choices if he wishes to avert his own collapse.
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