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December 24, 2010
The Palestinians' brilliant ''peace' strategy -- Drive a big wedge between the U.S. and Israel
You've got to give credit to the diplomatic and political savvy of the Palestinian Authority and its Fatah leaders, now only left with rule in the West Bank, while Hamas holds sway in Gaza.
Not wishing to be outdone by Hamas in taking a hard line against Israel, PA President Mahmoud Abbas seized an opportunity, when President Obama took his turn at U.S. mediation last year, by insisting that, even before negotiations were resumed, Israel had to freeze all Jewish construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
With Obama siding so conspicuously with the Palestinian side, Abbas saw no need to engage at all, and instead left it to the Americans to arm-wrestle with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and pressure him to go along with unilateral concessions. In turn, this created a predictable rift between Washington and Israel, which was not about to give up the store without anything in return.
Letting Obama and Netanyahu sweat it out for nearly two years suited Abbas just fine.
But Obama's role of negotiating for the Palestinians finally hit a dead end, and the president acknowledged he had to try another tack -- a belated effort to actually get the Palestinian and the Israelis to do some serious negotiating on their own.
That posed a bit of a challenge to Abbas, but he rose to the occasion brilliantly. If he couldn't quite get Obama to do his bidding anymore, he will now try his divide-and-conquer tactics against the U.S. and Israel in a different way.
His chief negotiator and propagandist, Saeb Erekat, announced that the Palestinian Authority will ask the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning construction in Jewish "settlements" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
This puts Obama in a bind. Every other member of the Security Council probably will go along with the Palestinians. So, what will Obama do -- veto such a resolution or abstain and let it pass?
If Obama is serious about his Plan B to get both Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table or to go along with U.S. shuttle diplomacy, he would have to veto the resolution to show that the U.S. no longer tilts the scales against Israel, but insists on negotiations by the two sides without any pre-conditions such as the upcoming PA-sponsored measure at the Security Council.
If, however, Obama still is intent on pursuing a losing vendetta against "settlements" as his overriding issue and agenda, then he will let it pass and sour any lingering belief among Israelis that he can be relied on as an honest broker.
Not an easy choice for Obama. But again, a perfect ploy for Abbas to remain on the sidelines without having to make any hard decisions of his own, while keeping Israel and the U.S. at loggerheads.
And this is but Abbas's first Security Council gambit. How Obama handles it is bound to be interpreted as a signal of whether he would -- or would not
-- veto a resolution endorsing Palestinians statehood along the 1967 lines
-- another current Abbas priority in lieu of real negotiations.
Either way, Abbas will have put Obama behind the eight ball and saved himself from having to make concessions that Hamas immediately would denounce as high treason -- a threat he's determined to avoid at all costs.
When it comes to political/diplomatic tactics, the Palestinians are in a class by themselves. Israel doesn't even come close. Neither does Obama.