The recent shift in the American approach for running the peace process in the Middle East as represented in the statements of both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, might have been considered positive had the Palestinian Arabs agreed to engage in a serious presentation of their positions, including the recognition of Israel as the Jewish National Homeland. There is nothing new about the "new American policy" announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently at the Saban Conference. Clinton's speech was a classic example of the historic and failed US approach. Almost every sentence was crafted to convey absolute evenhandedness. Every ounce of praise or pressure on one side was carefully balanced by an equal weight on the other. Such neutrality is both deliberate and axiomatic: it is a pillar of US Middle East diplomacy, but even more so under the current Obama administration.
Another pillar of the current "new American policy" US approach is that it is overwhelmingly local. There were brief mentions of the Arab states and Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian problem is treated as just that: a problem between two parties that radiates outwards. Both of these pillars represent fundamental misunderstandings of the conflict. The conflict is not symmetrical or local; it is asymmetrical and regional.
US policy is built on the premise that both sides want peace and are equally held back by shortsighted leadership. The reality is that the conflict is asymmetrical, but in the other direction: Israelis, both people and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, are much more ready for the two-state solution than is the Arab world. This can be seen by the long, tough road Israelis have taken over the past two decades, compared to where the Arab world is today.
Instead of putting forward a serious and a complete negotiating position on final status issues including borders, settlements, Jerusalem, and security, Abu Mazen orchestrated the latest Palestinian effort to prevent any serious negotiations with Israel by co-opting Brazil and additional small South American nations to declare their recognition of the virtual and nonexistent “free and independent” State of Palestine. Never mind that Arafat declared the same declaration in Algiers back in 1988, and nothing ever coming out of it. Abu Mazen, never missing the opportunity to make a strategic mistake, has embarked on a path that will only amplify the climate of hostility and push even further away the prospects for a solid and long-lasting peace.
Such a virtual nonexistent state will be based on reinstatement of the 1967 borders, which are not real borders at all, but rather armistice lines, and the establishment of East Jerusalem as its capital. Such an unhealthy formula could reach the United Nations during 2011, where an automatic anti-Israel majority can be expected to vote for recognition. The Palestinian Authority will seek international support to force a total Israeli withdrawal, the redivision of Jerusalem and the evacuation of 350,000 settlers from Judea and Samaria, as well as Israel's acceptance of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Palestinian Arab refugees. Inevitably, when Israel fails to comply, she will be stand accused of violating international law and find itself subject to sanctions. Eventually followed by a Security Council resolution recognizing an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.
To counter this effort by the Palestinian Arab leaders, all that Secretary Hillary Clinton had to do was demand that the Palestinian Arab leaders openly admit the most basic tenets underlying a two-state solution: that there is a Jewish people; that Jewish temples stood under independent Jewish sovereignty for centuries; and that Jewish moral, legal, and historic rights to sovereignty are not inferior to those of Palestinian Arabs. Saeb Erekat explained on Ynet.com, "agreeing to the Israeli demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would empty negotiations on the refugee problem of all content ... and completely negate the Palestinian narrative." In other words, the Palestinian position states that what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine: you have no right to live in a Palestinian Arab state, while Palestinian Arabs must have the right to "return" to the Jewish state.
The Palestinians claim to support a two-state solution while accepting none of its basic premises. Even worse is that no western leader will call a spade a spade. But the asymmetry goes even deeper. For Arabs, the two-state solution represents the abandonment of a century-old dream: the eviction of the Jews from Palestine. It would be a defeat, not a victory. While a Jewish state of any size is a victory for Zionism, the Arab world has spent the last century convincing itself that a Jewish state of any size is a defeat for Arab honor and rights.
There are, therefore, two fundamental requirements for peace. First, the West must demand that the Arab world accept Jewish peoplehood and historic rights, just as vociferously as it has demanded that Israelis accept the same for Palestinians. Second, the West needs to recognize that the Arab world will not accede to this demand so long as the radical Islamist camp is on the brink of achieving strategic immunity by way of an Iranian nuclear umbrella.
So once again the Palestinian Arabs are enabling and cooperating with the latest neighborhood bully in the Middle East, Iran helping her evade international attention and scrutiny concerning her nuclear ambitions. Instead, Abu Mazan, the unelected President of the Palestinian Authority has decided that now is the right time to initiate international support for a virtual nonexistent Palestine, sadly, this maneuver will probably be the last missed opportunity for Abu Mazen to miss an opportunity.