Pages: 1 2
Consistent with this strategy, Arafat was more than willing to take control of any territory ceded by Israel via the Oslo process while making in return commitments – particularly regarding ending terror and incitement – on which he consistently reneged and avoiding signing onto any limitation of future Palestinian territorial claims. When, under pressure from President Clinton, he reluctantly entered “final status” talks with Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in July 2000, Arafat rejected all the concessions offered by Barak and Clinton and refused to put forward counter-proposals. He was unwilling to accede to any accord, whatever the territorial and other concessions made by Israel, because an “end-of-conflict” agreement was now expected of him in return and he was not interested in ending the conflict and foregoing future, additional, Palestinian demands.
Around the same time, Arafat spoke of declaring a state unilaterally, as a way, again, of establishing “Palestine” without signing away future claims against Israel. Clinton made it clear the U.S. would not support such a unilateral move and, not least because of U.S. pressure, European states conveyed the same message.
Abbas, a longtime associate of Arafat and member of the Fatah and PLO leadership, has largely followed Arafat’s course. He has not actively pursued a terror campaign – and he was critical of the terror war launched by Arafat after Camp David – but he made clear at the time, and in statements since then, that his opposition to the manner in which Arafat used terror was purely tactical. He felt it did not serve to advance the Palestinians’ ultimate goals. Abbas has also made clear that those goals, for him, are the same as for Arafat. He has refused to recognize Israel’s legitimacy as the Jewish state, the expression of the right of national self-determination accorded other peoples, even though the original UN resolution on the division of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan called for the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state. He has refused to consider any compromise regarding Palestinian insistence on the “right of return.” And he has given no indication of any willingness to agree to a final status accord.
Abbas has stated he intends to seek in the coming fall United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state demarcated by the pre-1967 lines, and he has already requested and obtained such recognition from various nations. This strategy once more reflects Arafat’s policy of seeking to gain a state in the territories without conceding future claims against Israel; that is, without foreswearing future phases in the Plan of Phases.
But Obama’s program, laid out on May 19, likewise promises Abbas a state, indeed a state along the pre-1967 lines, without obliging him to give up insistence on the “right of return” or to sign an “end of conflict” agreement and foreswear future, additional claims against Israel.
Apologists for Obama point to his statements in the speech advising the Palestinians against turning away from negotiations with Israel and focusing instead on winning backing for their demands at the United Nations and elsewhere. (Obama actually implies in the speech that it is Israel’s continuing building in the “settlements” that drove the Palestinians to abandon negotiations. But Israel has not deviated from limits on building agreed upon with previous administrations, and negotiations with both Arafat and Abbas had proceeded without a total freeze. In addition, when Netanyahu did impose a ten-month freeze, Abbas waited until close to its expiration before resuming talks and then refused to continue them unless the freeze was extended. He clearly did not want to maintain negotiations and used Obama’s pressing for a total freeze as an excuse to refuse talks.) These apologists imply that the President had to move toward Palestinian positions in order to entice Abbas to follow his advice and refrain from actions at the UN that would hurt Israel.
But any UN action would hurt Israel only to the extent that Obama allowed it to do so. No General Assembly vote trumps Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 (passed near the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and calling both for implementation of 242 and for negotiations between the parties to advance the peace envisioned in 242). Obama could respond to any General Assembly move by emphasizing the United States looks upon the provisions of the two Security Council resolutions as the basis of movement towards resolution of the conflict and rejects any effort to circumvent their provisions. He could also pressure our allies, including in Europe, to take a similar stance.
In the Security Council, he could, of course, respond to any effort to recognize a Palestinian state at this point by using our veto power, and he indicated in his speech that he would do so. But he could also, again, pressure our allies in the Security Council to do the same. He could, as well, exert similar pressure on the Europeans against any move by them to grant recognition on a bilateral basis of a Palestinian state with borders defined by the pre-1967 lines. As noted, President Clinton effectively dissuaded the Europeans from responding positively when Arafat, after Camp David, sought support for unilateral declaration of a state. But President Obama shows no signs of sharing Clinton’s determination to prevent the Palestinian leadership from advancing their quest for statehood while they reject negotiated compromises and persist in pursuing Israel’s dissolution and absorption of its lands into a Palestinian state.
While Israel and its friends and supporters were so troubled by Obama’s dismissal of Israel’s need for, and right to, defensible borders, Obama’s speech was greeted with much enthusiasm by European states, led by the Munich Three – England, France, and Germany – who had colluded at Munich in the dissolution of Czechoslavakia in 1938. The Munich Three have in recent months been calling for precisely what Obama has now delivered: embrace of Palestinian demands for statehood based on the pre-1967 lines.
They, and many other European states, have, in fact, long indicated their preparedness to sacrifice Israel’s well-being and very existence in the service of advancing their Arab oil interests and appeasing the wider Arab and Muslim world, particularly the Islamist elements, as well as their own domestic, significantly radicalized, Muslim constituencies.
Of course, they justify their anti-Israel policies by characterizing all the territory beyond the pre-1967 lines as occupied Palestinian land, with Israel as the unconscionable occupier, whereas, in fact, these areas have never been part of a Palestinian entity and, under Resolutions 242 and 338, they are – except for the areas already ceded by Israel under Oslo – disputed lands whose ultimate disposition is to be determined by negotiations.
Obama, too, has demonstrated, and openly acknowledged, his eagerness to appease Arab and broader Muslim sentiment, particularly radical sentiment. (He has not been as forthcoming to such Muslim populations as the people of Darfur or those seeking freedom from tyranny in Iran and Syria, and has, in fact, cut U.S. funding to pro-democracy groups in Arab and other Muslim nations.) He showed once more in his recent speech that he, too, is prepared to sacrifice Israel’s interests to do so.
Czechoslovakia in 1938 was also a small nation and a rare democracy in its region, and was perceived by Britain and France as standing in the way of peace with a rising hostile, militant power. So Britain and France colluded with Germany in stripping the nation of the Sudetenland, mountainous, fortifiable territory necessary for the defense of the rest of the country. Now it is Israel – according to the President, and the chorus of like-minded European leaders, an obstacle to improved relations with those who wish the West ill – that would be stripped of the ability to defend itself.
Obama does aver that “our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.” But Britain and France also offered solemn promises that, should Germany violate the Munich agreement and move against what remained of Czechoslovakia, they would come to the rump nation’s defense. Yet when, less than six months after Munich, Hitler conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia, Britain and France did nothing.
When the likely Hamas-dominated Palestinian government is shelling Israeli coastal towns; and making additional territorial demands of Israel, such as annexing areas with significant Arab populations; and pursuing an intensified terror campaign in Israeli cities to which it will now have readier access; does anyone truly expect Obama to live up to his pledges of defending Israel? Indeed, no such defense will be possible, even for a president more predisposed to providing it.
As not only Obama’s recent speech but the tenor of his diplomacy regarding Israel since the beginning of his Administration clearly indicates, the only real question is whether Israel is prepared to play Czechoslovakia to Obama’s Chamberlain. Current indications are that it is not.
But this is of only limited comfort in the face of Obama policies that, at best, are likely to lead to more challenging of an Israel seen as vulnerable in the face of diminishing support from an American administration that is in any case perceived as weak; more challenging of Israel in the form of more violence, more war, and more carnage.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People under Siege.
Pages: 1 2