THE CLINTON DEBACLE PART TWO: THE CRISIS OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
"Persistent, hard-headed, day-in-and-day-out, high-level American engagement has also been a critical ingredient for success, from Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy, to Jimmy Carter at Camp David, to Jim Baker on the road to Madrid.
It is exactly that realization that has animated the efforts of President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Senator Mitchell, appointed as the President’s Special Envoy on the second day of the new Administration. Our goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security; a Jewish state of Israel, with which America retains unbreakable bonds, and with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, that ends the daily humiliations of Palestinians under occupation, and that realizes the full and remarkable potential of the Palestinian people.
Toward that end, as Secretary Clinton emphasized last week in the region, we seek to re-launch direct negotiations, without preconditions. That emphatically does not mean starting from scratch; it means building on previous agreements, resolving the core issues of the conflict, and settling it once and for all. At every step of this process, the United States will be an active and creative partner.
We seek to create the best possible circumstances for negotiations, working with the parties, working with key regional partners like Egypt, and the Quartet. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements; we consider the Israeli offer to restrain settlement activity to be a potentially important step, but it obviously falls short of the continuing Roadmap obligation for a full settlement freeze. We seek to deepen international support for the Palestinian Authority’s impressive plan to build over the next couple years the institutions that a responsible Palestinian state requires. And we also seek progress toward peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, as part of a broader peace among Israel and all of its neighbors.
I wish I could stand before you today and point to substantial progress toward those goals. I cannot. But what I can say is that the Administration’s commitment and determination are undiminished, and that we will continue to work hard to bring about the early resumption of negotiations, which is the only path to the two state solution on which so much depends, not only for the future of Israelis and Palestinians, but for the entire Middle East. Setbacks and complications are the common thread that runs through every effort at Middle East peace. We need to learn from them, but not be deterred by them. We have made limited headway – a shared understanding between the parties about a two state objective; a shared interest in moving back to the negotiating table; wide international backing for this process; steady progress, in the face of very difficult odds, toward shaping reliable Palestinian security organizations and governmental institutions in the West Bank. Now we need to bear down, move ahead, fulfill our responsibilities for leadership, and challenge every other party to fulfill theirs".
American Under-secretary of State, William J. Burns, "American and the Middle East in a New Era," 10 November 2009, in www.state.gov
"Mahmoud Abbas told senior Palestinian officials yesterday he will not seek reelection as president of the Palestinian Authority next January, in a sign of the mounting frustration felt by the veteran leader over the lack of progress in the peace process....
But such a move would cause alarm in Washington and other western capitals, where Mr Abbas is seen as the principal Palestinian advocate of a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel. It could also be perceived, especially among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world, as a sign that negotiations have failed for good - opening the way for further radicalisation in the region.
Despite enjoying close ties with western governments for many years, Mr Abbas recently voiced deep frustration with the policies of the US administration in particular. He and other Palestinian officials were incensed last weekend when Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, called for an immediate resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, despite Israel's continuing refusal to freeze the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority argued that it should not enter into talks with Israel as long as settlement growth continued - a position that until recently appeared to have the backing of the Obama administration. Mr Abbas held negotiations with a succession of Israeli governments, but remained deeply sceptical that the current, rightwing Israeli leadership was serious about talks.
There are no obvious successors to Mr Abbas, leader of the Fatah party and its presidential candidate."
"Frustrated Abbas will not seek re-election." 6 November 2009, in www.ft.com
The Clinton debacle continues with the now for certain resignation come January of PA President Abbas. An action which fills most Arab & Western governments with alarm if not active dread. And, yet other than the fact that the American President was sufficiently aware of the fact that having himself photographed with Israeli PM Netanyahu is political dynamite in the Near and Middle East at the moment, there is absolutely nothing being done to remedy the absence of an existing American strategy for the problem of the Arab-Israeli dispute. Indeed, as per the Financial Times, who are for the most part, still favorably inclined towards the new American Administration, American policy in the entire region is: 'under siege' (see: "US Fails to Match Mideast Rhetoric," 10 November 2009, in www.ft.com). Need I add that this is all in line with what was predicted in this journal a year ago and less? And, that it comes with confusing hardheaded realpolitik with useless words and verbiage (Remember that famous speech in Cairo last June? Does anyone?). Something that people the likes of that professional Panglossian Mr. Philip Stephens of the Financial Times among others, loves to indulge in (see: "Relax, Mr. President. There's no need to rush," 5 November 2009, www.ft.com). Unfortunately, sans some real hard-headed diplomacy `a la James A. Baker III, or Henry Kissinger, I do not foresee any likelihood of success in the search of Near Easter peace in the near future.