It is high time for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, to stand up and be counted — now that all the mediatory attempts by the US have failed to yield any tangible results for a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement. More so, since it is unlikely now that the Obama administration will carry a whip and guide the Palestinian or Israeli negotiators to agree to a reasonable and fair settlement at a time when the US is in the midst of a crucial congressional election in which Obama’s Democratic Party could lose its control of the Senate, a powerful legislative body.
The Obama administration is seen in Washington as hardly effective in its foreign policy, especially in the Arab world, where a threatening sectarian upheaval is raging, as well as the Ukrainian conflict, where Russia is playing a leading role. Furthermore, the influential pro-Israel lobby, known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), is expected to support candidates of the Republican Party where Israel has more supporters than among the Democrats. In fact, the lukewarm relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama is another factor that may tip the balance against the Democrats in the election.
This is one good reason why the Palestinian leadership should pursue its efforts to obtain membership of the United Nations directly and immediately, but not necessarily with US support, which obviously is not supportive of this approach yet. In this respect, the Palestinians should expect full support from the 22-member Arab League as well as Muslim countries elsewhere. In fact, it should not come as a surprise if many European countries also jump on to the bandwagon since many Europeans were aghast by Israel’s massacres in the besieged Gaza Strip recently.
The Palestinians should not be fearful of failure in applying for membership of the UN Security Council, a step they are entitled to undertake since they are now a “non-state member”. Nabeel Shaath, a former Palestinian foreign minister, said Palestinians could approach the International Criminal Court with a request to hold Israeli leaders accountable for war crimes during their invasion of Gaza.
It is a shame that the Nato summit, now underway in Wales, will not address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, considering that Israel has remained in the occupied West Bank since 1967. It has also not offered any sign yet that it is willing to withdraw from this region, with more than 500,000 Israelis now living in illegal colonies. Adding insult to injury, Israel this week took a shocking step, claiming nearly 1,000 acres of the occupied West Bank land near Bethlehem to construct its biggest illegal colony in the region in 30 years. The American reaction to this step was to issue a meek rebuke, calling on Israel “to reverse this decision”. In contrast, the European Union declared that “it will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to [occupied] Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties”.
Yariv Oppenheimer, general director of Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes Israeli colony activities, said that instead of strengthening the Palestinian moderates, Netanyahu “turns his back on the Palestinian National Authority and sticks a political knife in the back”. He told Israel Radio: “Since the 1980s, we don’t remember a declaration of such dimensions.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recalled in an article published recently in Haaretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper, that Nelson Mandela, had once said that South Africans would not feel free until Palestinians were free. Tutu added, “He might have added that the liberation of Palestine will liberate Israel, too.”
Coincidentally, a Palestinian armed group affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organisation known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, called for national unity at a rally this week in downtown Gaza City. He explained that the results of the seven-week war with Israel should pave the way for “national unity,” based on partnership.
George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org