[Published 26 September 2010]
President Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas both addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations this week and left more unsaid than was actually stated.
Both delivered speeches that indicated little grasp with the political realities that have led to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority failing to make any progress at all since the “two-state solution” was revived in 1993 - after having been unequivocally rejected by the Arab world in 1947.
President Obama’s speech reiterated long standing American policy when he stated:
“Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States. And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people. The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance — it’s injustice.”
Such a principled call by America is not new.
President Obama was indeed confirming the written commitment made to Israel by his predecessor President Bush on 14 April 2004:
“The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.”
These statements had followed similar declarations by all American Presidents beginning with President Woodrow Wilson who stated on 3 March 1919:
“I am persuaded that the Allied Nations, with the fullest concurrence of our own Government and people, are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundation of a Jewish Commonwealth.’
It was President Harding who on 21 September 1922 signed the joint resolution of approval by Congress and the Senate to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine.
The President therefore missed a wonderful opportunity in failing to tell the assembled world leaders:
“My appeal to President Abbas is to end his opposition and that of all members of the Arab League to recognizing Israel’s existence as a Jewish State. This policy is not mine alone but continues the policies expressed by all United State Presidents since Woodrow Wilson in 1919. This policy led to the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in Palestine by both the United Nations and its predecessor the League of Nations. Continuing resistance to accept Israel as the sovereign State of the Jewish people will guarantee the failure of negotiations recently resumed in Washington. It is time for the Arab world - after 63 years of unqualified rejection - to accept the Jewish people’s right to self determination in their historic homeland.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been vainly seeking such an assurance from President Abbas since direct negotiations were resumed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority [PA] in Washington on 2nd September. President Abbas has failed to yield to this demand.
That President Abbas has no intention of accepting this basic principle was evident in just one hypocritical sentence in his speech to the General Assembly just two days after President Obama had spoken:
“Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I reaffirm the eagerness of the Palestine Liberation Organization to achieve a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy”
These words were insincere, false and totally meaningless - completely the opposite of what appears in the Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and the separate Charter of its largest constituent member organization - Fatah.
President Abbas should have told the General Assembly that:
I head both the PLO and Fatah and I can tell you that President Obama’s demand to recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish State will never be conceded by the Palestinian Authority. My reasons are found in the Charters of both Fatah and the PLO - the sponsors of - and responsible for - the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1993.
Might I remind you all that those two Charters specifically provide that:
Liberating Palestine is a national obligation which necessities the materialistic and human support of the Arab Nation.
The Israeli existence in Palestine is a Zionist invasion with a colonial expansive base, and it is a natural ally to colonialism and international imperialism
Liberating Palestine and protecting its holy places is an Arab, religious and human obligation.
Our goal is complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence
I am committed to establishing an independent democratic state with complete sovereignty on all Palestinian lands, and Jerusalem is its capital city, and protecting the citizens’ legal and equal rights without any racial or religious discrimination.
Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.
We oppose any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine
The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”
President Obama and President Abbas were playing diplomatic games at the United Nations that were totally divorced from reality.
The demands of neither are capable of being achieved.
President Obama is engaging with the PA in a fruitless exercise that has no chance of being achieved because of Palestinian intransigence on this one critical issue.
Talk of any compromise in reaching the “two state solution” - the creation of a new Arab state between Jordan and Israel - remains a pipe dream whilst the PA ignores President Obama’s call to recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
President Obama needs to find another Arab negotiating partner to sit down and negotiate with Israel on the future sovereignty of the West Bank.
Maybe that will be the subject of President Obama’s next speech to the United Nations.
Let’s hope it is.