[Published 7 December 2010]
President Obama has been double-crossed by the extraordinary behaviour of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in seeking Brazil’s recognition of a Palestinian State “within the 1967 borders”.
A succeeding announcement by Argentina also recognizes a Palestinian state “within the 1967 borders” . Uruguay could be set to shortly follow suit.
In initially approaching Brazil for such recognition without advising Obama - Abbas could well have scuttled Obama’s further involvement in getting Israel and the PA to resume their stalled negotiations.
Abbas’s intemperate action could see the parties left to go their own ways after 17 years of failed American diplomacy to get even the most basic of understandings between Israel and the PA.
Argentina’s subsequent recognition is set to further exacerbate the growing crisis between America and the PA as a result of Abbas apparently deciding to abandon the American brokered negotiations..
Abbas’s letter to Brazil’s President Lula da Silva was written on 24 November - at precisely the time Obama was mulling over the incentives he was prepared to offer Israel to induce it to announce a three month building freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - thus enabling the PA to return to the negotiating table following its withdrawal from negotiations with Israel on 26 September.
Abbas made it clear in his letter to da Silva that the PA was not going to give Obama any further leeway the get the stalled negotiations resumed when he stated:
“The current situation in the Palestinian Territories shows a major escalation of Israeli actions. The Government of Israel refuses to stop its activities in the settlements. …Israel still defies the world and insists its colonization activities. This position hinders any possibility of reaching an agreement through negotiations and also creates a new reality on the ground, which prevents the two-state solution“
This statement amounted to a clear repudiation of any intention by the PA to give President Obama any more time to defuse the very issue that Abbas claimed was preventing his return to the negotiating table.
Abbas’s request to da Silva in such circumstances was clear and unambiguous:
“ .. we hope, our dear friend, that you will decide to take the initiative recognize the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders.”
Da Silva apparently was prepared to go even further and advised Abbas on 3 December:
“Brazil, through this letter, recognizes a Palestinian state on 1967 borders.“
There certainly is a great difference between the words “on” and “within”. But irrespective of which term was used by da Silva - Abbas’s request was a blatant attempt to undermine and influence the outcome of any eventual resumption of the stalled negotiations between the PA and Israel.
The border to be drawn between Israel and the new Arab state was critical to the successful conclusion of any such negotiations, Abbas in his letter to da Silva had indicated he was not prepared to move one meter from the position that had been maintained by the Palestine Liberation Organization for the last 43 years.
Abbas was perfectly entitled to jettison Obama and seek diplomatic support elsewhere. But it appears that in doing so he has shot himself in the foot. Any trust between Abbas and Obama must be severely undermined as a result of Abbas’s action in unilaterally seeking Brazilian and Argentinean recognition.
The PA. Brazil and Argentina are engaging on a flight of fantasy because there are no “1967 borders”. There currently exists what Israeli Cabinet Minister Benny Begin describes as
“the totally artificial line of aggression which is expressed in the 1949 armistice demarcation line. It’s nothing more than that. It signified at the time the line of battle fatigue. That’s all.”
To define such armistice line as a “border” continues the fiction that has been regularly repeated by Abbas and by United Nations General Assembly resolutions. That does not make it a border. It never has been - and in the view of the United States - can never become a border for obvious reasons - 500000 Jews now live beyond those armistice lines where none lived in 1967 after all the Jews then living there had been driven out by six invading Arab armies in 1948.
Even more bizarre is the recognition which Brazil - and now Argentina - has afforded to
1. A PA President whose term of office has long expired
2. A PA Government which is un-elected after having ousted a Government that was elected
3. An area of territory that is neither under the administrative or security control of the PA but is currently controlled by Israel or Hamas
4.Two different territorial areas that are not contiguous and are ruled by two different Arab Governments each claiming to represent the people seeking independence.
Both Brazil and Argentina have by their perverse decisions given new meaning to the terms “Brazil Nuts” and "Argentinean Ants”.
Those countries which may be persuaded to follow these unprecedented acts of “recognition” - which run completely contrary to the requirements of international law - should think carefully before jumping into the diplomatic quicksand that such decisions will inevitably create as precedents for others claiming “recognition” such as the Kurds, the Basques.the Tibetans and the Corsicans.
What Abbas hoped to achieve by slapping Obama in the face in this manner is difficult to grasp. Certainly such acts of recognition will get headlines - but effectively such “recognition” in practice and in law means nothing.
Thumbing your nose at an American President and causing him considerable loss of face as Abbas has chosen to do - is not bound to go unnoticed or unpunished by Obama.
It would be no surprise if Obama now decided to disengage from any further effort to bring Israel and the PA back to the negotiating table.
The distinct impression has already been created that Obama could never come up with a letter that would induce Israel to freeze building activity in the West bank and East Jerusalem. Two weeks of trying to draft it has apparently eluded the State Department and its host of diplomats. Abbas has ensured that the letter will now be a much longer time in coming - if ever at all.
Abbas will only have himself to blame. Like so many of his predecessors he has once again proved the adage eloquently expressed by former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban that the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.