As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas prepares to ask the United Nations Security Council to set a November 2016 deadline for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, Palestinian officials say the time has come for the US to stand up to Israel for the first time.
“I always tell the Americans that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a test,” Afif Safieh, a long-time Palestinian diplomat told The Media Line. “Until now we are still waiting for a moment of courage by the international community.”
As a former ambassador to the US, he says the Americans are not an honest broker and have repeatedly sided with Israel, who he called a “belligerent actor”. He said the US is making a mistake by threatening to veto the draft resolution setting a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from all areas it acquired in 1967.
“To threaten to veto (the resolution) is a shameful thing because all Palestinian positions at the UN are based on positions that successive Americans administrations had approved and voted upon,” he claimed, although the US never set a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal.
The decision to turn to the UN again, after the UN recognized “Palestine” as a non-member sovereign state in 2012, came as the international community hopes to begin to rebuild the Gaza Strip, heavily damaged during 50 days of Hamas fighting with Israel this summer. The Palestinian Authority recently announced that the new unity government will take over control of Gaza, meaning that Palestinian security forces are likely to be deployed at the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and Gaza.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah met with UN Special envoy Robert Serry and IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai about future security arrangements in Gaza. The international community is set to attend a conference in Cairo to discuss Gaza reconstruction.
The US has repeatedly stressed its belief that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be bilateral, in a negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It has hinted that if Abbas continues with his plans to bring a resolution with a deadline to the Security Council, the US could cut international aid to the PA.
“I hope the Arab world will give financial security to our people and to the PA so we are no longer to vulnerable to extortion and blackmail,” he said.
Abbas responded with a threat of his own, telling the Palestinian leadership that if there is a UN veto, he could reconsider his security cooperation with Israel.
“I think it would be a mistake and a misperception not to take seriously what Mahmoud Abbas is saying these days,” said Safieh, who has also been ambassador to the Hague and the Vatican.
The PA and Israel have been enjoying security coordination since the 1993 Oslo Accords, and Israeli officials have frequently praised the Palestinian security forces. On a number of occasions, Abbas has come under fire from his people who criticized him for continuing the security cooperation with Israel, especially during the Israel-Hamas fighting over the summer which left over 2000 Palestinians dead.
Palestinians have also sharply criticized the Israeli announcement to build more than 2600 homes beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem, an announcement made the same day that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met US President Barack Obama in Washington.
“This settlement will cut all southern parts of the West Bank, Bethlehem, Hebron with Jerusalem,” he said. “The US is the main super power, the US is committed to the two state solution and we want the US to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in order to achieve peace based on a two state solution for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis,” he said.
Senior Palestinian official Sabri Saidam agrees that America could play a bigger role in advancing peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
“Pressuring Israel is not a formula that kills Israel but rather gives birth to Palestine,” Fatah revolutionary council deputy secretary general Sabri Saidam told The Media Line. “Maintaining an Israeli formula that couples security with occupation is a status-quo that's totally unacceptable," he said.
Article written by Abdullah H. Erakat.Reprinted with permission from The Media Line