Abbas and Co. have several diplomatic options now that the prime minister has retracted Bar-Ilan speech.
By Zvi Bar’el | Mar. 20, 2015
By Khaled Diab | Mar. 19, 2015 | 6:24 PM
Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration, in his recent interview to the NRG website, that a Palestinian state will not be founded on his watch, wasn’t major news to the Palestinians and shouldn’t be big news for Israelis. His conduct throughout his service as prime minister made it clear he would never follow through on the recognition of the two-state solution contained in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, spoke diplomatically, like an official state spokesman, when he said yesterday that the PA would cooperate with any Israeli government, but what cooperation did he mean, exactly, when Israel is still holding on to around half a billion dollars — minus the payments to Israel Electric Corporation — in PA tax remittances? As long as the Palestinian economy remains thoroughly dependent on Israel’s economy, all its imports and exports transit through Israel’s ports; as long as most of the PA’s water and electricity are supplied by Israel and major building projects require Israel’s approval, the PA will be hard-pressed to end that dependency.
Palestinian National Economy Minister Mohammed Mustafa emphasized recently that the PA plans to introduce protections for Palestinian-made products and to join the World Trade Organization, but even if the Paris Protocol — the economic addendum to the Oslo Accords — is amended, it will take the Palestinian economy a few years to wean itself from the Israeli teat. This economic dependence also dictates the need for continued security coordination with Israel, without which Israel might expand the direct occupation into areas A and B (areas of the West Bank under full or partial Palestinian control, according to the Oslo Accords), where the Israel Defense Forces has free reign as it is.
The international front would seem to be the only area in which the Palestinian government can operate to apply pressure on Israel. Abbas has friends in Europe, including in states that have either recognized Palestine or passed resolutions in principle to recognize a future Palestinian state established through negotiations with Israel. In the absence of negotiations, which Netanyahu’s declaration has rendered pointless, there is a growing likelihood that these resolutions in principle will be translated into de facto recognition and the acceptance of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations. That seems the most likely track for the PA to take in the short term, although it means convincing the U.S. administration that the Israeli election results are tantamount to a death certificate for the peace talks.