Mahmoud Abbas insists he is only going to the United Nations this week because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not serious about making peace, and he is. In fact, he would have us believe, his UN strategy will advance the cause of peace, not set it back. And once he gets what he wants from the UN (or most of it), he will be ready to sit down with Netanyahu.
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Well, not quite. First Netanyahu must agree to a settlement freeze and accept the 1949 Armistice lines as the basis for negotiating future borders. Then, it’s a definite maybe.
Netanyahu has conditions of his own, including recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as the Jewish homeland and a long-term presence in the Jordan Valley. Nevertheless, he says without explaining the contradiction, he’s ready for negotiations without any preconditions. He is even willing to hold them in Ramallah.
If Abbas is as sincere about making peace as he wants us to believe, there’s a quick and easy solution: call Bibi’s bluff. If the Israeli leader means what he says about no preconditions Abbas can challenge him by going before the General Assembly on Friday and declaring he is putting his membership application on hold and taking up the Israeli offer for talks. There have been enough preliminaries, pre-meetings and consultations; let’s get down to work Monday morning. We’ll ask the United States to provide a cabin at Camp David. No preconditions. No press conferences. Then maybe we can find out who wants peace and who just wants to talk about it.
Is Abbas’ UN gambit an effort to jumpstart a stalled peace process or, as Jeffrey Goldberg of Atlantic writes, "another entirely symbolic and counterproductive gesture in the long history of Palestinian gesture-making?" Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Abbas’ UN "drama" will change little. Abbas could get more than 140 votes at the UN, but not the only two that really matter if he is sincere about establishing a viable Palestinian state: the United States and Israel. All the rest is commentary.
Goldberg, in his article "Palestine Won’t Be a State," concludes neither Abbas nor Netanyahu has made a serious effort to make peace. He calls them "partner(s) in paralysis."