from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Abbas Strikes Out

September 28, 2011

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 23, 2011 (Courtesty REUTERS/Mike Segar).

PLO Chairman (and Palestinian Authority President) Mahmoud Abbas came to the United Nations last week, seeking membership in that body for a new state of Palestine.

This entire maneuver did not help the Palestinian cause, as I argued in an article in National Review. "His statehood project depends on Israel and the United States, and to a lesser extent on the Europeans (and a bit of Gulf Arab financing). His U.N. gambit has annoyed or offended all of those parties."  The article continues:

But the most striking evidence of Abbas’s error came in the Quartet statement (from the U.S., the U.N., the EU, and Russia) released Friday night, after Abbas and Netanyahu had spoken. In the past two and half years, every Quartet statement has reflected Obama’s obsession with construction in the settlements and has demanded a freeze. The statements have also often reflected the Obama administration’s tilt toward the Palestinians and against Israel.

But not this one. Instead it reflected both Obama’s own U.N. speech, tilting the other way as the American elections appeared over the horizon, and EU annoyance with Abbas. This Quartet statement did not even mention settlements, not once, and instead simply laid out a long timetable for negotiations. The Quartet statement “reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions,” thereby rejecting the Palestinian demand that a construction freeze come first.

The EU and the United states have criticized a recent Israeli announcement of additional construction in Jerusalem, but the point remains: a freeze is no longer viewed as a legitimate precondition for negotiations.

The Abbas UN speech was, as my article discusses, harsh and unlikely to advance the cause of peace.  It certainly contained no words to the Palestinian people preparing them for the difficult compromises that peace will require of both parties.

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