Obama Enlisted Both Clintons to stop a Palestinian state
After US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton warned Mahmoud Abbas on Oct. 31 that he was going against the wishes of president Barack Obama, the White House hauled out a heavy contingent of big American guns to make him see reason. They visit Ramallah Sunday, Nov. 15, to lean hard on him to back off his plan for a unilateral declaration of the Islamic Republic of Palestinian within 1967 or 1949 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, following the Kosovo example of 2008, according DEBKAfile's Washington and Jerusalem sources.
Obama took advantage of the Sadan Forum's sixth session taking place in Jerusalem Saturday to assign key participants to this mission, including former president Bill Clinton, governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, five US congressmen and several presidential advisers including Dennis Ross.
It now transpires that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' dramatic resignation and his obstruction of peace talks by demanding that Israel first halt settlement activity were stunts behind which he and his aides have been actively lobbying world capitals to support his independence project.
Our sources disclose that the US president's objections are shared by Cairo and Riyadh. Still, Abbas refused to heed Secretary Clinton when they met in Ramallah, or Obama in two subsequent telephone conversations. He is so fixated on his plan that even if Binyamin Netanyahu were to stop all settlement construction on the West Bank and Jerusalem, Abbas would not come round. At best, he would let the Americans force him into a meeting and then abort it.
The details of his plan are simple: Ruling out further negotiations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority will unilaterally proclaim an independent state with Jerusalem its capital within the 1949 armistice borders, transitional boundaries which ended Israel's war of liberation. To obtain maximum international support, Abbas will refer to the 1967 - not the 1949 - boundaries in the first stage, thereby making the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in West Bank settlements and the Arab districts of Jerusalem sovereign Palestinian citizens.
Even before taking on the Obama administration, however, Abbas has his work cut out to beat his way through insurmountable thickets at home: Under the Palestinian constitution, his presidency, government and parliament are illegitimate. He first tried scheduling an election to Palestinian institutions for Jan. 24, 2010, to rectify this lacuna and make his government legal, only to discover that the legal difficulties besetting the Palestinian Authority and its rule of the West Bank (the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas) were even more complex than the status of Kosovo.
Even that Balkan territory only attained partial recognition (63 members excluding Serbia) for its self-declared independence; its de facto control of the territory does not include Serbian enclaves; and Kosovo's independence is still awaiting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice for which Serbia has filed.
Meanwhile, the Albanians of Kosovo live under the interim administration of the European Union Rule of Law Mission which took over from the United Nations in Dec. 2008.
Most UN members have avoided recognizing Kosovo for the same fundamental reason they will deny Palestine majority recognition: the danger of a violent secessionist pandemic overtaking their own ethnic and religious minorities. The UN, including Europe, therefore stopped short of granting Kosovo's independence full recognition.
Even so, the Balkan enclave has a major advantage over the Palestinians; its people are united, whereas the Palestinian people are deeply split between two illegal entities, the Fatah-ruled West Bank and the Gaza Strip under Hamas rule.
And because Iran and Syria are also opposed to the Abbas unilateral independence initiative, they egged the Palestinian Hamas on to block elections, to deny the PA Chairman and his "Kosovo initiative," legal validity both domestically and internationally.
But none of this has stopped Abbas. Last week, he withdrew his candidacy for re-election. This was no bluff to bring hs backers running to hold him back, but rather a device to free his hands; he sees himself as the national figure who will go down in history as having delivered independence to the Palestinian people.
The Obama administration is determined to stop him.
Sunday, the formidable group led by Bill Clinton will present itself to Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah for two tasks: One is to show Abbas that he is not irreplaceable as the preferred Palestinian leader and the other is to persuade Fayyad to lead a general movement in the Palestinian leadership to force the PA chairman to give up his plan.
Saturday, Nov. 14, the Palestinian Authority's senior diplomat Saed Ereket said that the PA would ask the UN Security Council to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state within 1967 borders and its capital of Jerusalem. He claimed the plan had won the support of Russia and the United Nations, but omitted to mention the United States. When he spoke, Erekat knew perfectly well that any such motion would run into an American veto and so die in its tracks.
He appears to have got the message from Washington that if Bill Clinton is against Abbas' unilateral move, the opposition it faces is formidable.. After all, Kosovars hold him up as the father of their independence; on Nov. 1, they unveiled a large statue portraying him as a hero.