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Monday, September 26, 2011

Israel, Palestine and The World A Moment of Truth

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas defied all odds and officially requested the United Nations recognition of Palestine as an independent member state.

All those who predicted that violence will accompany the request turned out to be wrong. Israel’s grand preparation for confrontations with Palestinians turned out to be unwarranted. Arab pundits who assured us Abbas is humiliating the Palestinian people struggle with his request were (not so happily) surprised by an ovation at the UN and a worldwide recognition that Mahmoud Abbas is emerging as a true leader who is determined to go all the way in his quest for peace talks towards a fair resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Abbas did not stop at his official request of an independent Palestine; he also went on to say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “the most inflexible Israeli leader I have known.” Abbas is basically saying now that he captured the world’s attention, he cannot move forward towards achieving peace with Netanyahu. An opinion shared by other world leaders and many Israelis as well. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton believes that “Netanyahu is not interested in Mideast peace deal.” Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni also criticized Netanyahu saying, “Netanyahu is all talk, what happened at the United Nations does nothing to help negotiations.”

Abbas has also made it public that he will be revisiting the Oslo peace accords with the Israelis because he believes they hinder Palestinian economic prosperity. According to experts what is known as the Paris Agreement of 1994 removes commercial border between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and sets up a joint customs system that collects taxes for the Palestinians. This system is controlled by Israel, it depends completely on Israeli economic entities and it imposes extreme conditions and restrictions on trade between the Palestinian territories and the rest of the world.

The world has discovered a new Arab leader in Mahmoud Abbas: He is a brutally honest and vocal Palestinian, politely confrontational, not afraid to disagree with super powers, who remains on target despite criticism, warnings and direct threats.

There is a price to be paid for this surge in popularity. Many are now searching hard for ways to punish him for daring to oppose the United States, Israel and even some Arabs who call him a sell-out.

First signs of what’s to come have started to emerge. Spain, one of Europe’s staunchest Palestinian sovereignty supporters declared for the first time its recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. A significant move that other countries will start taking positions on.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened “tough repercussions” should the UN Security Council approve the Palestinian request for statehood or the UN General Assembly voting in favor of the request. Lieberman is a controversial figure in Israel and for many his “tough talk” has become synonymous with “empty threats” that, if carried out, will end up hurting Israel instead of strengthening its position.

Lebanon’s UN ambassador has said the Security Council will be discussing the Palestinian request on Monday. If there is a vote, an almost certain veto from the United States is expected. If that happens, it might turn out to be the most embarrassing veto the U.S. has ever exercised yet in this conflict. It will unashamedly put the U.S. at odds with all Arab nations. Will Arabs react to that, collectively and individually? This is possibly the best time and best reason to do so; maybe they can take their cue from Mahmoud Abbas!

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