Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Palestine Papers, Ctd

Tony Karon thinks the Palestinian Papers will have a more devastating effect on Mahmoud Abbas and the PA than it will on Israel.  Of their short-term effect on domestic politics, this seems obvious, as Abbas' government is inherently more unstable than that of a proper state.  But the exposure of Israel's U.S.-sanctioned intransigence seems likely to both reduce international patience with Israel, and breed skepticism towards its sincerity in negotiating a fair solution to what has, until now, been misnamed the "peace process."  In Time:
Abbas and Erekat, of course, are operating within the limits of a process in which the Palestinians have no leverage, peace being something of a misnomer since Abbas and Erekat are not at war with Israel. In fact, they have nothing to offer that Israel's leaders believe they currently need; the status quo is acceptable to the Israeli side. So, Abbas advocates could argue that the concessions he's alleged to have offered may be the only realistic way to achieve a deal given the absence of any U.S. willingness to press Israel. But it's precisely that sense of the slim offerings available at the negotiating table that has prompted even many leaders in Abbas' own Fatah movement to urge him to break with the U.S.-led process and adopt strategies to pressure Israel.
The furor over the documents will, of course, reinforce the claim by more hawkish Israelis that no matter how accommodating Abbas is willing to be, he lacks the political authority to sell his own people the deal he's offering Israel. Some may also argue that the disclosures show that Abbas' insistence on a settlement freeze as a precondition to resuming talks was a red herring, tossed out by a leadership willing to concede Israel's rights to those settlements but not to face the moment of truth with their own people on the terms of a peace agreement. Israeli doves will counter, however, that the documents undercut the mantra that "there is no Palestinian partner" for peace and raise questions about the Israeli leadership's willingness to compromise.
The major impact of the "Palestine Papers," however, will be on the administration of President Abbas. It's not really a democratic administration, of course. The last Palestinian legislative elections were held in 2006 and were won by Hamas; Israel then simply detained enough Hamas legislators to prevent the legislature from seating a quorum, and Abbas has been governing by decree ever since (even though his own term of office expired in January 2009)...
Indeed, the Palestine Papers may well have made the position of Abbas politically untenable. Not only do they militate against him seeking a democratic mandate for another term of office; the fallout they may generate could underscore the unlikelihood of any Palestinian leader being able to accept the terms Israel is currently willing to offer for a two-state deal. The possibility that a two-state solution can be agreed to by the parties themselves has just become a little more remote. And that leaves the matter of ending the occupation and realizing Palestinian rights back in the lap of the international community.

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