Obama, Sarkozy are right to not believe Netanyahu

Posted: November 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

This week, when the American president was attacked for his “open mic” rants with French president Sarkozy over the Israeli PM’s character, it was hard not to remember this video from 2001, in which Netanyahu bragged on how he manipulated the Clinton Administration and stopped the Oslo Accords.

[By the way, this clip was discovered and aired by Channel 10. Last week, it was revenge time for Netanyahu: The PM ordered all coalition members to oppose a new arrangement on the the channel's debts. As a result, Israel's second commercial channel - known for its aggressive and critical news desk - has announced it will cease to exist in 2-3 months.]

This is from Richard Silverstein’s transcript of the video:

Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?

Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction.

Child: They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…

Netanyahu: They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.

Child: On the other hand, if we do some something, then they…

Netanyahu: So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…” Look. That administration [Clinton] was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.

In the following segment, Bibi boasts about how he emptied the Oslo Accords of meaning by an interpretation that made a mockery of them:

Woman: The Oslo Accords are a disaster.

Netanyahu: Yes. You know that and I knew that…The people [nation] has to know…

What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: “Will you act according to them?” and I answered: “yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.” “But how do you intend to limit the retreats?” “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?

Narrator: The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.

Netanyahu: No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.

Woman: Right [laughs]…The Beit She’an Valley.

Netanyahu: How can you tell. How can you tell? But then the question came up of just who would define what Defined Military Sites were. I received a letter — to me and to Arafat, at the same time — which said that Israel, and only Israel, would be the one to define what those are, the location of those military sites and their size. Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: “I’m not signing.” Only when the letter came, in the course of the meeting, to me and to Arafat, only then did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Or rather, ratify it, it had already been signed. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.


Palestinians to launch “Freedom Rides” campaign on Israeli buses

Posted: November 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Settlements, unarmed protest | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Activists seek to reenact the US civil rights movement’s campaign in order to highlight Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank

Palestinian activists are increasing their efforts to expose Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank, as well as violations on their civil and human rights. In a message to the press, the Popular Struggle Committee announced that on November 15, Palestinian activists “will reenact the US Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides to the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public buses in the West Bank to travel to occupied East Jerusalem.”

Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military control since 1967. Among other restrictions, they can only vote in elections to the Palestinian Authority, which has very limited power on the ground. They cannot travel out of the West Bank or receive visitors without Israeli permits, and they are tried in military courts, which curtail the rights of defendants. Jews living in the West Bank enjoy full citizenship rights.

The occupation is often portrayed as a diplomatic problem of war and peace between two equal parties, Palestine and Israel. The Freedom Riders campaign is part of an effort to emphasize the nature of the Palestinian problem as a human rights issue.

The message from the Popular Struggle Committee states that:

Several Israeli companies, among them Egged and Veolia, operate dozens of lines that run through the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. They run between different Israeli settlements, connecting them to each other and cities inside Israel. Some lines connecting Jerusalem to other cities inside Israel, such as Eilat and Beit She’an, are also routed to pass through the West Bank.

Israelis suffer almost no limitations on their freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory, and are even allowed to settle in it, contrary to international law. Palestinians, in contrast, are not allowed to enter Israel without procuring a special permit from Israeli authorities. Even Palestinian movement inside the Occupied Territories is heavily restricted, with access to occupied East Jerusalem and some 8% of the West Bank in the border area also forbidden without a similar permit.

While it is not officially forbidden for Palestinians to use Israeli public transportation in the West Bank, these lines are effectively segregated, since many of them pass through Jewish-only settlements, to which Palestinian entry is prohibited by a military decree.

Last week it was also reported that international activists intend to challenge Israel’s effective blockade of the West Bank with a new “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, designed to take place next April. Over a hundred activists were arrested and deported last spring, after flying to Israel and declaring their intention to visit the West Bank.


Jerusalem construction in next decades – mostly on occupied territory

Posted: November 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , | Comments Off

This is not a Peace Now report, but an official document of the Jerusalem Municipality: According to a survey conducted at the request of the mayor’s office, 60,718 new housing units are slated for construction in Jerusalem in the next decades. Of those, 52,363 of them will be built east of the Green Line, in the territory annexed to Israel after the Six-Day War.

The document, revealed today by the daily paper Maariv, states that 23,628 of the planned units were already approved by relevant zoning committees – 20,263 of those for the “eastern” part of the city. In the area of Silwan, the biggest Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, nearly 5,000 housing unites are planned. Silwan has seen many demonstrations in recent years against the attempt to settle it with Jews, and tension is likely to grow in light of the new plans.

Jerusalem employs a system of separation between the Palestinians living in the city, who only hold the status of “residents” and the Jews, who enjoy citizen rights. Under those conditions, Arabs in Jerusalem don’t have the right to vote in national elections, their ability to purchase houses are limited, and if they leave the country for several years, they are likely to lose even their legal residency status. Most Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem receive limited municipal services.

Further Reading: The legal and moral problem with Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem (background)


If Netanyahu wants to investigate Iran leaks, he better start with his own office

Posted: November 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us | Tags: , , | Comments Off

A comment on my last post refers to the much-quoted Al Jarida story about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to order an internal security service investigation that would trace the source whose leaks to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily started the public debate regarding a possible attack on Iran. How a Kuwait-based paper got a world scoop from the Israeli PM office is a different (and very interesting) story, but I would like to make a couple of remarks on the issue itself:

First, Netanyahu is obviously playing a double game: he has been speaking of the need to deal with Iran since his return to the prime minister’s office, and occasionally, he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak make  mysterious public statements about the fact that “all options are on the table” and so on. So when Netanyahu is talking about a possible strike on Iran it’s okay, while people who oppose it should keep their mouth shut?

Second, people tend to forget that all items on this issue in the Israeli media pass through the military censor, who has the final say on every word. From my own experiences, I can say that the office of the censor is pretty active when it comes to future plans and specifically to the nuclear issue, so you can be sure that no secrets were revealed.

The problem for Netanyahu is not that people talk about Iran – but rather that they have their own opinions.


Israeli public, politicians split on Iran (with advantage to skeptics)

Posted: November 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, Polls, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The lack of national consensus makes an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities unlikely, yet the escalating threats could create a dangerous dynamic in the longer run ● Public discourse is lacking a serious debate on the consequences of the attack

After months and years in which it has been kept in back rooms or limited to hints and remarks the true meaning of which was understood only by a few people, the Iran debate is suddenly so public that at times it’s hard to make any sense of it. Never has the possibility of a war – a war! – been debated so openly in Israel. Haaret’z top headline today (Thursday) was a poll showing the Israeli public split – 41 in favor and 39 opposing – on a possible Israeli strike against Iran nuclear facilities. According to those numbers, ultra-Orthodox Israelis are particularly keen on the attack (do they know something the rest of us don’t?) and a surprising 21 percent of Israeli-Palestinians are in support.

Some people find the idea of polling such issues bizarre (next – a reality show?) , but history has shown that when left alone to decide in secret on such issues, politicians and generals don’t exercise better judgment than the man on the street. Knowing that the public’s eye is on them, the military and political chiefs in Tel Aviv might be a bit more careful. I agree with Larry Derfner – a public debate on Iran is generally a good thing, and we should be happy that most of the Israel press is engaging in it. Unsurprisingly, it was the pro-Netanyahu tabloid Yisrael Hayon that had a quote in its top headline criticizing public statements made by ex-Mossad chief against the attack, reminding that Israel’s (former) chief spies are sworn to secrecy.

I was buying coffee near my home on Thursday when a siren sounded; I had a vague memory that a civil defense drill was due to take place, but people around me were genuinely concerned. Later, I read that the Home Front Command told reporters that the drill was scheduled a long time ago – just like the Air Force maneuver on the other side of the Mediterranean – yet one can’t help thinking that if Israel is not planning to attack Iran, it wants things to at least to be seen that way.

————-

It’s not clear whether Israel has the military capability to seriously damage the Iranian nuclear program, but an attack, some people argue, will send a message to the entire Middle East that Israel will act against any country in the region that attempts to develop a nuclear weapon. Even if this won’t stop Iran, such an attack might deter other countries in the region, and prevent the nightmare scenario of an all-out nuclear arms race. Some also hope that the possibility of Israeli attack might strengthen international pressure on Iran, or promote more effective sanctions.

But deterrence is a double-edged sword; it is meant to prevent the need to use military force but sometimes it ends up actually leading to it. It’s easy to see why: You start by threatening to use force if your national interests are jeopardized, and after a while, you have no choice but acting upon your threats in order to make sure that they are seen as credible in the future. This is the real danger of the current game Israel is playing: While I doubt if there is a real desire to attack in the political system or the military right now, as time passes the urge to strike is likely to grow, if only in order to prove to other countries that Israel’s threats are credible.

As for now, it seems that the “Iran Skeptics” camps still has the upper hand in the national debate: in the eight-minister cabinet that constitutes Israel’s top decision-making forum, four ministers are reported to oppose the attack (according to Haaretz those are Benny Begin, Moshe Ya’alon, Eli Yishai and Dan Meridor), three are considered in favor and one’s position is unclear, though it has been reported that he is leaning towards the opposition (that’s Finance Minister Yuval Shteinitz). Reports suggest that the military and Mossad are also not very enthusiastic about the idea, and as I mentioned, there is the very public campaign launched by the former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, with the silent support of former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former head of Shabak (the Shin Bet internal security service) Yuval Diskin, though it should be noted that none of the three hold any formal role in security establishment right now.

Finally, the latest development is the criticism against Netanyahu’s push for attack, voiced by Kadima’s Tzipi Livni. This is pretty rare – the political tradition in Israel has it that the opposition does not question the government’s security decisions, certainly not in public, and never in advance. Livni wouldn’t have spoken if she had felt that she is alone on this issue.

—————

One thing that is missing from the public debate on Iran is a serious consideration of the consequences of an Israeli attack. The Iranian response – both direct and by proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas – could be pretty tough, and if it actually causes great damage or result in a large number of civilian casualties, Israel might see itself as being forced to retaliate. Therefore, the correct framing of the question isn’t an attack on Iran, but a possible war with Iran and its regional allies. An escalation of this sort might result in drawing the United States and other countries, probably against their will, into the fight. Again, the consequences for all parties involved – Israelis, Palestinians, Iranians, Lebanese and maybe Syrians – could be terrible.

The fact that Natanayhu is far from enjoying a national consensus behind him on Iran, even before a single shot was fired, makes me think that maybe an attack is not around the corner, at least for the time being.


Boycotting oneself: Washington, Jerusalem on dead end road

Posted: November 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, the US and us | Comments Off

America’s war on the world continues: After threatening to cut funds from the United Nations if the organization promotes the Palestinian delegation’s status, the State Department decided to freeze its support for the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nation (UNESCO) because the latter defied Washington’s order and accepted Palestine as a member state.

Israel has added a threat of its own – to completely withdraw from UNESCO. In recent years Israel took pride in the fact that UNESCO recognized World Heritage Sites within its borders – Tel Aviv’s white city being one of the latest additions – so such a move, if it happens, would be the equivalent of boycotting oneself and is likely to hurt Israel more than any other country. The Tel Aviv Municipality would have to change its website, for starters.

Later came another Israeli response – the decision to construct 2,000 housing units in settlements and East Jerusalem. Strangely enough, I remember Prime Minister Netanyahu declaring that settlement construction is not aimed against the Palestinians and doesn’t hurt the peace process; now Netanyahu presents it as retaliation to a Palestinian unilateral move. So which Netanyahu should we believe? The one saying that the settlements aren’t a problem or the one using them as a punishment?

Neither, is the correct answer. Netanyahu’s policies in the West Bank have nothing to do with UN diplomacy. He is building settlements simply because he believes Israel should control this territory forever. Under real pressure (which is not the case now), Netanyahu might concede some areas to limited Palestinian control – his version of the two-state solution, which has nothing to do with “states” or “solutions” – but not much more. The prime minister has said so many times, and he is backing his words with actions.

It seems that everyone is playing internal politics: Netanyahu, whose right-wing position sits well with an Israeli constituency who is indifferent to the occupation and feels that the status quo serves it well; Palestinian President Abbas, who is enjoying a boost in his popularity after standing up to Israel and to the United States, and the American administration, which simply decided that it doesn’t have the political capital to spend on getting concessions out of an Israeli government with such strong ties in Washington, so best to simply forget about the whole thing and limit its Middle East policy to damage control. Withdrawing from international bodies and threatening to hold funds from the Palestinian Authority are likely to further weaken the United States’ position, something more and more people now view as an unavoidable process on the road to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As for Israel, one thing should be clear: The internal conversation regarding the Palestinian issue will not result in a new policy and not in a new government, even if elections are held next year. Actually, Netanyahu is getting stronger, not so much because of a rise in his own popularity, but due to the collapse of Kadima, the main opposition party. Perhaps for the first time in thirty years, there is no major political force in Israel that seriously pushes for the end of the occupation. Not one party and probably not one Knesset member who wakes up in the morning and asks him or herself what would he do today to get there. There used to be such people in the political system – Beilin or Peres, with all their faults, come to mind – but there is absolutely no one now. Everyone swears by the two-state solution, but nobody would spend political capital on it.

By shielding Israel even from the mild diplomatic pressure the Palestinians are able to promote, Washington is making sure that these local trends continue.


Last-ditch effort to save a unique Palestinian village

Posted: October 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Lifta, the best-kept out of handful of remaining Nakba villages, will be demolished to make way for a housing project for affluent Jews

The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites is joining the campaign to save the remaining houses of the Palestinian village Lifta, at the western entrance of modern Jerusalem. Lifta, the best-kept of hundreds of abandoned Palestinian villages, is about to be demolished in order to make way for a new Jewish neighborhood.

According to a report by the daily paper Maariv, Itzik Shviki, manager of Jerusalem district in the Society, has filed a motion to the Jerusalem municipality. “The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites is demanding from the municipality of Jerusalem and from the Interior Ministry to create a [preservation] plan for upper Lifta,” Shviki told Maariv. “Most of the historical homes that are under the threat of demolition should be included in a comprehensive plan for preservation and development. And all current zoning plans should be stopped.”

Lifta is one of the few remaining Nakba villages, whose residents were deported or fled during the war of 1948. Israel has prevented the Palestinians who left their homes from returning to them, and when the war ended, it confiscated their lands and property.

Almost all of the hundreds of empty Palestinian villages were destroyed after the war and in subsequent decades. In Lifta, 55 of more than 400 hundred homes survived, together with the original cemetery, vineyards and a pool that collects rainwater. Because nobody lived in Lifta, it was left undeveloped. Except for the damage caused by time, tourists and homeless people who occupied some of the empty homes, parts of the village remain as they were left by the Palestinians who lived there more than 60 years ago, making it a unique historical site.

Recognizing the special value of Lifta led Israel to declare the village and its surroundings a natural reserve.

In 2004, a new zoning plan removed the special protection from Lifta. Plan No. 6036, approved in August 2006, designates the land for the construction of 268 housing units (an extremely small number, suggesting they are intended for a more affluent population), a hotel and commercial areas.

The new Lifta plan was approved by all the necessary planning authorities, but the sale of lots on the site was stopped after a court petition was filed by various organizations, including representatives of refugees from Lifta, Israeli-Palestinian civil society organizations and Rabbis for Human Rights. The motion is still being heard by the Jerusalem District Court.

Further reading:

Lifta Society: Articles, photos and updates on the campaign to save Lifta.

Why do Jews need to talk abour the Nakba
(my article from last Nakba Day).


Netanyahu was the one to stop Israeli-Palestinian talks

Posted: August 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

The Israeli media is reporting a high-level effort to resume negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was brought to an end a couple of weeks ago at the Benjamin Netanyahu’s orders. The prime minister, meanwhile, continues to claim he has no partner.

Coming up to September and the UN bid by the Palestinian Authority, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claims that the Palestinians refuse to negotiate with his government, and therefore urges the world to oppose their diplomatic moves, “in the interest of peace.”

Many echo this talking point: It’s being voiced no not only by advocates for the Israeli right in America (here, here, here, and here) but also by critics of the current Israeli government, sources in the Obama administration and even an editorial in the New York Times.

I intend to write a separate post on the way Israel is manipulating the world’s public opinion by using the term “peace” when it actually means maintaining the status quo; I also have my doubts on the UN bid and the false notion of “Palestinian statehood” when in reality the occupation only deepens—a better idea might be to dismantle the PA altogether—but it is important to note that even on this very issue of negotiations, the Israeli prime minister and the people speaking in his name are far from telling the whole truth.

As various media outlets in Israel have revealed that in recent weeks, Israeli president Shimon Peres has had a secret negotiating channel with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. According to a report in the daily Maariv, Peres—who has  often acted as an unofficial envoy for the government, given the rivalry between Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the latter’s poor image in the world—has met with Abbas four times, discussing various details regarding the resumption of formal negotiations between the two parties. In-between these meetings, Peres also had a one-on-one with president Obama, which could be indicative of the importance attributed to these talks.

Netanyahu was aware of Peres’s moves, and according to the Israeli president’s closer circles, approved them. Yet a couple of weeks ago, Netanyahu surprisingly called off a meeting between Peres and Abu-Mazen, effectively closing the secret channel.

According to Maariv, the Palestinian president was already on his way to Amman, where the meeting was supposed to take place, when an aide to Peres notified him over the phone that the meeting was cancelled at the order of the Israeli PM. According  to Netanyahu’s associates, this wasn’t a good time for an understanding with the Palestinians, given the political circumstances in Israel, Ben Caspit reported.

According to Maariv, President Peres is now “completely exasperated” with Netanyahu.

My guess is that Netanyahu felt that Peres was getting closer to some understanding—anything—with Abbas, and this was against his goal of prolonging negotiations without offering concessions, as a way to get the international pressure off his back while keeping the Israeli consensus behind him (at least on this issue). In my opinion, there was little to no hope that that these talks would have led to anything, but still, it’s important to note that as soon as there was the slightest whiff of progress, even that informal channel became way too much for the Israeli prime minister.


Republican presidential candidate wants to destroy UN if it recognizes Palestine

Posted: August 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

In an op-ed published by the pro-Netanyahu tabloid Yisrael Hayom, Republican Newt Gingrich calls upon the United States to stop supporting the United Nations if it votes for Palestinian independence. “We don’t need to fund a corrupt institution to beat up on our allies,” says Gingrich.

Washington should make immediately clear that it has no tolerance for dangerous stunts that threaten Israel’s survival.

When the U.N. is set to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state and Israel is the only country in the world not even permitted to determine its own capital city, something is very wrong.

The time to stop this disaster is before it happens. Congress and Obama must detail the potential cost of a U.N. betrayal of Israel before the General Assembly meets.

I wonder what Michele Bachmann’s response will be. Surly, she can’t be left behind in the “who’s more pro Netanyahu” race. My guess is that nothing short of deploying the Marines in Paris would do.


US Mideast policy: Well on its way to total irrelevance

Posted: August 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

By following Jerusalem’s lead regarding the Palestinian UN bid, the United State is diminishing its own position in the region, and actually proving that the Palestinians have nothing to hope for in negotiations with Israel

A few months ago, there was still speculation in Jerusalem that the White House is behind the new wave of diplomatic pressure from the EU. Some even wondered whether the administration is secretly supporting the Palestinian UN bid, hoping that this would finally get Israel to take a step or two towards the Palestinians, possibly even freeze settlement construction, so that negotiations could resume.

Nobody thinks so now. The administration has clearly decided to throw its entire weight behind Jerusalem and against the Palestinian move. Washington is threatening both in public and in private that the UN bid would seriously harm American relations with Ramallah, and might even bring to an end the financial aid for the Palestinian Authority. As usual, the US congress—which seems crazier than the Knesset, impossible as this is to imagine—is threatening to stop all financial aid to the PA, and there are even talks of withdrawing funds from the UN itself if its members dare to vote in the Palestinian favor.

Punishing the entire world for seeking to end the occupation! It seems that American foreign policy was taken hostage by the Likud. Current political circumstances in Washington could be blamed, but the facts are pretty clear. One could find in the Israeli mainstream media, and even in the Israeli administration, those who are inclined to support the Palestinian UN bid, yet America seems to be speaking in one voice against it.

Even the New York Times, whose editorial was at times very critical of recent Israeli policies, warned the Palestinians of the possible consequences of their UN move.

The best way, likely the only way, to head off this debacle is with the start of serious negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The two sides haven’t even been in the same room together since September 2010.

(…)

Arab leaders haven’t given the Israelis any incentive to compromise. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, seemed to give up on diplomacy when Mr. Obama could not deliver a promised settlement freeze. We see no sign that he has thought even one step beyond the U.N. vote.

It’s been twenty years—since the term of George H W Bush—that the United States has allowed Israel to continue its settlement activities. While Palestinian “unilateralism” consists of turning to the international community, with the blessing and support of most of the world, Israel is engaging every day in the real unilateral activities, ones that change the reality on the ground in ways that would make Palestine, if such a state is ever to be born, no more then a tiny Bantustan (just this week Israel has approved a couple more projects that would make a compromise in Jerusalem impossible).

While the destructive Israeli policy is answered with fable condemnations from Washington – yesterday’s statements hardly made it to the papers – the Palestinians are threatened with very concrete punishments, including a move that would leave thousands of Palestinian Authority employees without means to support their families (one could guess how happy they would be to continue doing Israel’s policing work in the West Bank). To sum it up, when the US blocks a Security Council resolution condemning the settlements, and in the same year, vetoes Palestinian statehood, it’s clear that regardless of the rhetoric coming out of Washington, American policy in the Middle East is similar to that of Israel’s expansionist right.

The New York Times editorial did get something right though:

If the Palestinians want full U.N. membership, they have to win the backing of the Security Council. The United States will undoubtedly veto any resolution, and that will further isolate both Israel and Washington.

It’s not really important whether US Middle East policy is the result of the mess on Capitol Hill or whether the administration really believes in what it is doing (I imagine Dennis Ross does). In both cases, the result will be the same: Washington becoming less and less relevant in the region’s geo-political game. I even guess that Russia and China recognize that, and that’s another reason for them to support the Palestinian bid.

The irony is that all the “punishments” America inflicts on the Palestinians will just speed up this process: funds means influence, and once the United States stop supporting the PA, there are two options: either the Authority collapses, or it survives on alternative sources, in Europe or the Arab world (the latter is less likely, given the current economic and political situation). In both cases, America is out of the game.

The last few months have proved one more thing: Abbas is right in refusing to negotiate with Israel under such conditions. With Washington as a broker, what could he expect from such talks? He’ll be lucky to keep his shirt before leaving the negotiation table.