Did Obama Tell Abbas to Wait?
By Jonathan S.
the surface, the latest message to the Palestinian Authority from the Obama
administration is no different from the past two decades of American policy: the
U.S. will veto any resolution attacking Israel or demanding Palestinian
independence without them first making peace with the Jewish state. But,
as Haaretz reported, there was one significant caveat to the warning.
They were told not to push for any such resolution until after the presidential
election next month.
“senior Palestinian official” who spoke of this message toHaaretz said
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas had “no illusions and no expectations” that the U.S.
wouldn’t veto any resolution they put forward. They also thought Washington
might not have any plan of its own ready. “All we know is that there are
ideas.” But the significance of those “ideas” is a function of the time
frame enunciated by the administration.
President Obama had no plans to use his last two months in office to launch some
kind of a diplomatic initiative on the Middle East or to stick it to the
Israelis and his longtime antagonist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then why
would he even mention the election? Were the U.S. to keep faith with the
Israelis, the Palestinians would just be told that there would be no change in
American policy. Period. Abbas and the PA would be put on notice that, if they
actually had any desire for peace or hope of future independence, they should do
what they promised to do in the Oslo Accords: head back into direct negotiations
with the Israelis.
his eight years in office, President Obama has done everything he could to tilt
the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians’ direction. Had they ever
negotiated seriously with Israel, they know they could count on Obama to back
their stands and to pressure Netanyahu mercilessly. But despite the president
hammering the Israelis and demanding that they accept the 1967 borders as the
starting point for talks, the Palestinians have never played ball with Obama.
Instead, they have spent most of these years refusing to talk. They torpedoed
the negotiations the only time they deigned to show up by making a pact with
Hamas and seeking to make an end run around the Americans by going to the United
nothing the Palestinians have done has been enough to cause Obama to rethink the
mistaken assumption he brought with him into the White House in January 2009. He
still thinks creating more daylight between the U.S. and Israel is the best path
to peace, or, at least, is the stance that reflects his personal inclinations.
That’s why he’s still flirting with the idea of using the lame duck period
between the presidential election and the inauguration of his successor to put
forward some kind of plan to pressure Israel, or even going as far as betraying
the Jewish state at the UN by allowing a pro-Palestinian resolution to pass
without an American veto. Earlier this month, Secretary
of State Kerry told Netanyahu that the administration was still thinking about
it. Now they’ve told the Palestinians to hold their fire until November
9th. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to connect the dots and
realize that there is an excellent chance that Obama will finally make good on
this threat. The president may make a gesture before leaving office that will
damage the U.S.-Israel alliance in a way that even a less hostile president
won’t be able to completely undo.
the Palestinians to wait until after the election is a reflection of the fact
that Obama knows any move against Israel would hurt Hillary Clinton. But with
only 18 days to go until the election, friends of Israel–both Republicans and
especially Democrats–need to use this time to speak up against any last minute
betrayal of Israel. Once Clinton has defeated a floundering Donald Trump, Obama
thinks he will finally be freed of any political constraints. Barring a strong
stand by Clinton in which she tells Obama to back down, Israel should expect the