Thursday, April 29, 2010

After 15 Months Of Obama--Syria Now Speaks For Palestinian Arabs

Elliott Abrams writes about the huge implications of two stories which are being overlooked.

The stories:
Two stories this week in Haaretz, the Israeli daily, make this clear. The first story recounts an interview Abbas gave Israeli TV, and notes that “Abbas said he hopes to get Arab League approval for indirect talks on May 1.” The second story recycles an item from the newspaper Al-Watan in Damascus, and begins this way: “The Arab League is expected to reject the Obama administration's proposal to begin indirect Middle East peace negotiations in the coming weeks, sources from the 22-state body told Syria's Al-Watan daily on Tuesday. The League's Monitoring Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative is scheduled to meet on Saturday to vote on the proposal, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to accept any offer for peace talks that does not meet the panel's approval.”
The implications of these 2 stories will directly impact the Middle East "peace process"--by cutting it off at the knees:

First, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, this is a giant--even historic--step backwards. His motivations are not complex: He wants to avoid Palestinian and wider Arab criticism. As long as he follows Arab League strictures he will. But the price paid is hugely reduced flexibility, and a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future.
The second implication is important because it may explain why the Obama administration is so eager to send an ambassador to Syria when there is such a long history of failed attempts at diplomacy:
Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited Damascus and why the administration persists in “outreach” to Syria despite its continuing evil conduct (most recently, reports of the shipment of Scud missiles to Hezbollah). Having committed itself to the “peace process,” the administration simply cannot afford to treat Syria as it deserves; Syria has too much clout now.
Of course, the question arises as to how we came to such a situation and who is to responsible for the continued weakening of Abbas and strengthening of countries like Syria.
According to Abrams:
Abbas certainly bears great responsibility for this development, but one can’t hold George Mitchell and Obama policy harmless. Fifteen months of Obama diplomacy have not only badly damaged U.S.-Israel relations and produced no peace talks, they have also undermined Palestinian autonomy. It is a keen measure of the fall of American influence in the region when a Palestinian leader responds to intense American pressure to go to the negotiating table by waiting to see if Arab League foreign ministers will let him take that step.
Of course, one could point out that Arafat too was unable to give President Clinton what he wanted because Arafat lacked the backing of the Arab countries.

By the same token, successfully created the myth of a Palestinian people. Can anyone list Abbas's accomplishments?

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