DIPLOMATIC PROSPECTS

I wrote in a previous post that, in the event of a Zionist Union victory in Israel’s upcoming election, no obstacle would remain to a resolution of the conflict on terms which violate international law and likely preclude viable Palestinian statehood.

There appear to be two principal diplomatic proposals in the air, though the extent to which they are seen as alternatives rather than complementary is not clear:

  • A UN Security Council resolution In the course of the UN Security Council general debate on 15 January, the UK, Spain, France and others urged ‘changing the methodology of the peace process’ (France) through a Security Council resolution establishing ‘the parameters of a two-State solution’ (UK). (pp. 17, 19, 31) The US representative did not mention such a possibility. However, former US special envoy to the peace process Martin Indyk today warned that, should Israel’s election return a government opposed to a two-state settlement,[1] there would be a ‘security council resolution’ to ‘lay out and preserve the principles of a two-state solution in the future’.
  • Revived regional negotiations ‘If there is a government in Israel after these elections that decides to pursue a two-state solution’, Indyk continued, ‘there is a way forward’ through a US-led diplomatic process involving the Arab states. The process would ‘provide the Palestinians… with an Egyptian-Jordanian anchor, and the political cover of the Arab peace initiative’. An unnamed Fatah official interviewed by Al Monitor spoke in similar terms, explaining that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas ‘considers the relationship with [Egyptian president] Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a strategic axis for the advancement of Palestinian statehood’ and adding that ‘the centrepiece’ of any new process ‘should be the Arab Peace Initiative, legitimising any pragmatic Palestinian policies’. (my emph.) Translation: Arab involvement would give Abbas the cover to sell out.[2] The Fatah official added that ‘the only country that projects to the Palestinians a sense of solidarity and responsibility nowadays is Egypt’—second only to Israel in its sadistic punishment of Gaza. An Egyptian official interviewed by the same publication explained that, as part of a ‘strategy designed to secure anew’ its ‘leading role in the Arab world’, Egypt intends to launch a diplomatic campaign following Israel’s election based on ‘the weakening of Hamas in Gaza’ and ‘economic assistance to… Abbas’. This would support efforts towards an ‘international framework for peace talks based on the Arab Peace Initiative and conditioned on a full freeze of settlements’, coordinated with the U.S. and the EU and formalised in a UN Security Council resolution. Indyk, too, envisions a settlement freeze, but in exchange for ‘a freeze of Palestinian international activity against Israel’. Meanwhile, Tony Blair is working as assiduously as ever on behalf of the Sisi regime, promoting a leadership role for Egypt in any future diplomatic initiative. Both the State Department and Russia (p. 28) have floated the revival of the Quartet as ‘mediator and coordinator’, with Blair playing a leading role, and the Quartet describes itself as ‘actively engaged in preparing for a resumption of the peace process in the coming period‘.

It is unclear which of these scenarios or combination thereof will come to pass. What is clear is that all spell disaster for the Palestinians. A diplomatic process led by the Obama administration and a Livni-Herzog government, backed and legitimised by Egypt, Jordan and the Arab League, would at best go nowhere and at worst issue in a settlement that would see Israel annex critical chunks of the West Bank and annul the Palestinian right of return. A second UN Security Council resolution attempt would either replicate the PA’s previous fiasco or wind up legitimising US-Israeli terms of settlement. 

The Fatah official interviewed by Al Monitor claims that the PA’s planned ‘diplomatic intifada’ will ‘be followed by a nonviolent popular intifada’, but this is implausible insofar as the PA has anything to say about it. As Amos Yadlin, former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence and the Zionist Union’s candidate for defence minister, explains,

It is doubtful whether the Palestinian leadership, which itself has a problem with internal legitimacy, will be able to stand at the head of widespread ‘popular resistance’, and it is not at all clear that such a popular uprising would not be aimed first and foremost at the PA leadership itself.

Absent such a movement, the conflict and its resolution will remain the prerogative of forces indifferent or hostile to Palestinian self-determination, with predictable results.

Notes

[1] By which he means a settlement on the terms endorsed by Secretary of State John Kerry and, within Israel, by the Zionist Union. Every mainstream Israeli party rejects, along with Kerry and indeed Indyk, the international consensus two-state settlement based on international law.

[2] Recall that the Arab Peace Initiative was amended under U.S. pressure in 2013 to endorse land swaps.

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