While President Barack Obama displayed a great determination to vacation over the last two weeks, the situation in the Middle East has continued to spiral out of control. No, not that situation in the Middle East. Not that one either, silly. That’s North Africa. No, the specific Middle East crisis to which we are referring is the ongoing war in Gaza.
Some of you forgot that was happening, didn’t you? It’s understandable. The press determined to cover the latest Gaza war with rarely seen ferocity when it first erupted. A few news cycles later and a proliferation of crises around the world and at home, and the media has lost interest in covering that story. As is often the case with this president, the news cycle dictates where his administration focuses its attention. Obama, too, has moved on to more pressing issues.
But the crisis in Gaza remains unresolved. Now, according to The New York Times, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has lost his patience with both the intransigent Hamas authority in Gaza and a lethargic Obama administration. He is going it alone.
“Mr. Abbas plans to present an initiative Tuesday to the Palestinian leadership that, several people close to him said, would bypass American-brokered negotiation with Israel that have failed for many years to produce a Palestinian state,” The Times reported. “Instead, he will call for an international conference of United Nations resolution demanding a deadline to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.”
“This is exactly our moment, like it was the moment of the European Jews after the Holocaust, when the said, ‘Never again.’ This is our ‘never again,’” said Husam Zomlot, a senior foreign-policy official in Mr. Abbas’s Fatah faction. “This is the time to really operate. We either operate or we let the patient die, and the patient here is the two-state solution. We cannot just put bandages.”
This analogy is an apt one, but only casualty as a result of this maneuver will be American influence in the region.
The Times story suggests Abbas’s initiative will take the form of an ultimatum. “It’s going to be in the form of either-or,” said Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Zaid Abu Amr. “It’s going to be a different approach to the ongoing modus operandi.”
Presuming the United Nations does, as many of its members are inclined to do, take up an initiative imposing a deadline on Israel which would presumably lead to the creation of the conditions the Palestinian Authority insists are prerequisite for it to achieve statehood. So what? Israel will not be bound by resolutions approved in the United Nations.
Moreover, the notion that the two-state solution is imperiled misses the fact that the two-state solution has been virtually defunct for some time. Why? We’re no longer talking about two states, but three. The Palestinian Authority has almost no control over the actions of Hamas militants in control of the noncontiguous territory of Gaza, evidenced by their inability to broker a ceasefire to which Hamas would abide. Likewise, Hamas is virtually at war with the P.A. in the West Bank and even went so far as to attempt to orchestrate a military coup to overthrow Abbas’s government (thought the P.A denies this).
All Abbas will achieve with this maneuver is to cement the impression that the United States can no longer function as a broker between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.