The Palestinian bid for membership in the United Nations was effectively put on hold Friday when global powers agreed on a proposal for restarting direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis, with the goal of achieving a comprehensive settlement between the two sides by the end of next year.
Let’s first agree that leaders look at their political position at home. That is so everywhere – including Israel, the US, and the Palestinian territories.
Then – Let’s try a fast first attempt at an evaluation of what happened:
it starts with the general observation we already found in the press – Mahmoud Abbas‘ historic UN address swells Palestinian pride.
So, let us start:
Mahmoud Abbas took over after Yasser Arafat’s death, but he never became a real leader.
Elected to serve until 9 January 2009, he unilaterally extended his term for another year and continues in office even after that second deadline expired.
As a result of this, Fatah’s main rival, the political party Hamas, announced that it would not recognize the extension or view Abbas as rightful president.
Challenged by the Hamas he decided on elections. To prepare for these elections he decided he must do something big – that is how the decision came to go to the UN and ask for recognition for his people.
During the years, he somehow was in contact with Israel, had real achievements with them, and was able to free the occupation so it allowed the creation of a West Bank economy.
We always said – IF YOU WANT A STATE – JUST DO IT. We meant by this build the mechanisms for a State from the inside – don’t just talk about it.
So what happened. Mr. Abbas came to New York and climbed up a tall tree on a mole-hill. All the UN was in turmoil and waves battered the tree. Then, after leaving a letter with the local landlord – the UN Secretary-General – Mr. Abbas climed up a little further onto a ladder that took him to the plane to fly back home to Ramallah – to the embrace of an enthusiastic populace that loved the show of affection Mr. Abbas got at the UN in New York.
To reach home he must fly to Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel or to Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan.
In the latter case he will have to cross the King Hussein Bridge formerly known as the British General Allenby Bridge. Needless to say – none of those names evoke much love lost by the Palestinians.
Back home, after the euphoria slows and reality of negotiations hits – we may all yet find out that Mr. Abbas DID THE RIGHT THING by shaking up a dormant situation.
We want to be optimists and hope that a situation with promise was created, and true negotiations can start with moves towards a recognition that a two – or perhaps eventual three – States solution – starts with mutual recognition of the undeniable right for each State to define itself with its own people in mind and with adherence to democracy in the sense that it can live with people of the other group as a minority in its own borders. No State can claim it must by definition be free of any individuals that ethnically belong to the other group. Now this is the true road bloc to be recognized first – all the rest will then unroll easily with good business incentives in sight.
In case it is not possible to convert Hamas to the same ideals of coexistence, it will be for Israel to decide on an iron-clad agreement on the West Bank, and regard the Gaza State as the smaller hazard it will continue to be. The new Egypt and Jordan will in some ways have to become partners to the Palestinian-Israeli agreement with the Quartet as a further outside circle of philosophical guarantors.
As Mr. Nethanyahu made it clear guarantors will not be called in as security crutches. There it will be designed so that military security outposts are part of the security arrangements of the final deal.
How long will this take? That may not have to be a question the moment that serious negotiations with a time-table are started. Will Tony Blair continue as referee? We shall see.
A few notes on Mr. Abbas:
Abbas is a graduate of the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where he earned a Candidate of Sciences degree (the Soviet equivalent of a PhD). The theme of his doctoral dissertation was “The Other Side: The secret relations between Nazism and the leadership of the Zionist movement.”
In the mid-1950s, Abbas became heavily involved in underground Palestinian politics, joining a number of exiled Palestinians in Qatar, where he was Director of Personnel in the emirate’s Civil Service. While there, in 1961, he was recruited to become a member of Fatah (Congratulation for 50 years of service – please), founded by Yasser Arafat and a number of other Palestinians in Kuwait in the late 1950s. At the time, Arafat was establishing the groundwork of Fatah by enlisting wealthy Palestinians in Qatar, Kuwait, and other Gulf States.
Abu Daoud, who planned the 1972 Munich Massacre, the hostage-taking of members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympic Games which ended with the murder of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German policeman, wrote that funds for the operation were provided by Abbas, though without knowing what the money would be used for.
His interest is in business, his three sons were in business (one died in Qatar). At the same time he has performed diplomatic duties, presenting a moderating face for PLO policies. Abbas was the first PLO official to visit Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War in January 1993 to mend fences with the Gulf countries for the PLO’s support of Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. At the 1993 peace accord with Israel, Abbas was the signatory for the PLO on 13 September 1993. He published a memoir, Through Secret Channels: The Road to Oslo (1995).