Mahmoud Abbas's High-Stakes UN Gamble / Abbas' hoher Einsatz im UN-Spiel
Graham Usher vermisst im Vorgehen der Palästinenser eine Strategie (englisch)
Der folgende Artikel beleuchtet die schwierige Lage, in der sich die Palästinenser insgesamt und deren Präsident Mahmoud Abbas im besonderen befindet. Der Gang vor die Vereinten Nationen kann vor allem ein Dilemma nicht lösen: Abbas ist in seinem Vorgehen auf die Unterstützung der europäischen Führungsmächte und Russlands, mithin auch des "Nahost-Quartetts" angewiesen; sollten die ihn aber lediglich wieder auf direkte Verhandlungen verweisen, hat er Probleme, deren Vorschlag einfach abzulehnen. Wir haben den nachfolgenden Beitrag aus der US-amerikanischen Wochenzeitung "The Nation" entnommen.
Mahmoud Abbas's High-Stakes UN Gamble
by Graham Usher *
It's easy to see who won the great debate that
captivated the United Nations last week. Palestinian
Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas made an eloquent case
that after twenty years of a futile "peace process,"
the time had come to end Israel's occupation and for
the UN to admit his country as a full member state.
Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu called for peace
talks "without preconditions"--only to inject such
preconditions (like the PA recognizing Israel's "Jewish
character") that would make talks a nonstarter. Abbas
was received rapturously; Netanyahu, coolly.
But the villain was Barack Obama, at least for those
peoples in a region where Israel's occupation is
becoming the permafrost on the Arab Spring. The United
States had long made it clear it would veto any
Palestinian bid for full membership. But President
Obama didn't just rehearse Israeli arguments against
the move; he adopted Israel's narrative on the
conflict. "Let's be honest: Israel is surrounded by
neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it," he
Obama made no mention of the occupation, Jewish
settlements or even that, since 2002, those neighbors
have offered Israel a full peace in return for a full
withdrawal from occupied Arab land. It was the most
pro-Israeli speech ever made by a US president at the
UN, said a veteran Jewish American commentator. It's
"the reason we are going to the UN," seethed
Palestinian delegate Hanan Ashrawi.
The task there is herculean. The PA faces obstruction
not only from Washington but from supposed allies like
the European Union, the UN and even Russia, the three
other members of the so-called Quartet. No sooner had
Abbas submitted his bid to the Security Council than
all four united to contain it, alarmed that a US veto
would inflame anti-Western passions across the Middle
East. The Quartet called for the two sides to resume
negotiations in a month and reach a peace agreement in
That proposal has been tried in the past. It will tank
this time too. Abbas says there can be no return to
talks unless they are accompanied by a freeze on
settlement-building and are based on the 1967 armistice
lines as the border between Israel and a future
Palestinian state. The Quartet statement specifies
As of now, six of the Security Council's fifteen
members are backing the PA's bid. It needs nine to
force a vote. If it fails to get a vote, that would
suit the United States and, it seems, the Quartet.
Abbas's dilemma is acute. If he accepts the Quartet's
terms, he would undo all the kudos he has gained for
his refusal to bend under US pressure. But if he
rejects them, he risks alienating the EU, the UN and
Russia, the powers he thinks are needed as a
counterweight to Washington's pro-Israel bias. This
dilemma exposes the weakness at the heart of the UN
There have been two camps behind the UN bid in the PA
leadership. Both agreed that for domestic reasons, the
Obama administration will not be able to broker even
partially fair negotiations this side of the 2012
presidential elections. But one camp, led by Abbas,
believes the US abdication could be offset by upgrading
Palestine's status at the UN and internationalizing the
negotiations to include the EU, the UN and Russia. The
aim was never to end Oslo's model of bilateralism per
se but to freight it with more favorable conditions.
The other camp says Oslo is dead, and argues that an
upgrade in UN status--either as a full member or the
lesser non-member observer state--would strengthen the
PA legally and politically as a "state under
occupation." It may even allow for prosecution of
Israel at the International Criminal Court.
The problem is that both camps are reliant on others to
further their diplomacy. And currently they are up
against a US-EU bloc with two aims. The main one is to
spare the United States the shame of a veto at the
Security Council. But another is to slow Palestine's
becoming a non-member observer state at the General
Assembly, a move the Quartet believes could end all
hope of negotiations and trigger Israeli-US sanctions
against the PA.
There are other flaws in the PA's strategy. Abbas
received a rousing welcome when he returned to
Ramallah. But the largely stage-managed rallies there
contrasted poorly with the minuscule gatherings in
support of the UN bid in occupied East Jerusalem, among
Palestinian citizens of Israel and in the diaspora, let
alone the zero demonstrations in Hamas-ruled Gaza. This
is testimony of the PA's failure to ground its UN
strategy in a genuine national consensus.
Abbas also said the UN bid was "the Palestinian
spring." Yet in New York he paid only lip service to
those democratic movements and states most associated
with the Arab uprisings. When Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the UN, not a single
Palestinian delegate was present.
Erdogan has been the regional leader who has made
Palestinian independence a cornerstone of a new Middle
East. Used correctly--by inscribing the Palestinian
narrative of self-determination in the Arab narrative
of freedom--the Arab uprisings could be marshaled by the
PA as a powerful counterweight to the forces facing
them at the UN, especially since the only reason the
Quartet has become engaged, admitted one EU diplomat,
is out of fear that "the Israel-Palestine conflict
could become an issue on the Arab street."
Time will tell whether Abbas turns to the region to
bolster the UN bid or remains ensnared by it. By
temperament he prefers diplomacy to revolutionary
change. Last week's defiance of US power may have been
his finest hour in the eyes of his people, but it also
marked the failure of an Oslo model he owned for more
than eighteen years. "I don't know what to do when I
return," he confided to a friend in New York.
Another Palestinian official was even blunter about the
absence of a Palestinian strategy. What comes after
September, he was asked. "October," he said.
* Graham Usher is a writer and journalist who has written extensively about the Arab world and South Asia.
Source: The Nation (online), September 28, 2011
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