Mid-East “new diplomacy” rising — Bennis
Beyond Palestinian-Israeli impasse to a diplomacy rooted in international law, human rights, equality for all
Two articles excerpted, edited with re-reporting by Carolyn Bennett
What is essential after 20 years of failed U.S. diplomacy, says Institute for Policy Studies Fellow Phyllis Bennis, is “some means of moving the debate out of Washington and into the United Nations.”
“The challenge to and overthrow of U.S.-backed dictators across the Arab world is changing landscapes across the region and in countries far from the Middle East,” Bennis wrote in an article published on Wednesday, before President Mahmoud Abbas made the case for full Palestinian membership at the United Nations. “The notion spreading throughout the ‘Arab Spring’ — that a revolutionary process could contain both an internal focus (the shaking up of old social hierarchies) and an external focus (aimed at shaking out old leaders and old ideas) — had its roots in the first Palestinian uprising, the socially inclusive, grassroots-based and non-violent intifada that began a generation ago in 1987. So it should surprise no one that Palestinians are still engaged in nonviolent mobilization that aims both to end Israeli occupation, settlement, and apartheid, and to democratize and hold accountable its own internal leadership.
“… For the first time since before World War II, the United States cannot rely on sycophantic Arab dictators willing to viciously suppress their own people in order to sign friendly oil contracts and make nice to Israel, while maintaining the good ties to Washington that keep the stream of arms sales and foreign aid flowing.
“For the first time, some Arab regimes are being forced to at least partly take into account popular opinion.
“… [I]n such a heated and high-profile atmosphere, a U.S. veto [of Palestinian full membership in the UN] will almost certainly lead to significant diplomatic challenges for Washington’s military, resource, economic and political relations.”
After the Palestinian president’s Friday speech before the UN General Assembly, Bennis wrote this.
“There was a potential game changer in Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s speech … that marks the end of the 20-year-long U.S.-backed failed peace process and the potential beginning of a whole new approach to Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy — one based on international law, human rights and equality for all.
No longer is the failed U.S.-controlled ‘peace process’ the only diplomatic game in town.
The Palestinian application for recognition as a full Member State of the United Nations places the diplomacy squarely where it has always belonged — in the UN, not in Washington. …
“T]here is now at least the basis for laying a new diplomatic foundation, different from the current approach that maintains Israel’s huge disparity in power and accepts Israeli ‘red lines.’ … This could mean something entirely new — diplomacy grounded in international law and human rights that ends occupation, ensures the right of refugees to return to their homes, and replaces apartheid with equality for all.…
“… [T]he challenge is to make this new opportunity real and to take maximum advantage of it, not to let it dissolve into endless bureaucracy. There is a serious danger that the UN Security Council, rather than moving to schedule a rapid vote with its inevitable U.S. veto, will instead move to create a committee, to launch an investigation, to commission a report… and otherwise move to simply bury the Palestinian application in the labyrinthine mumbo-jumbo of UN diplo-speak. …”
But maybe, she says —
“… Maybe some governments will take seriously their obligation to protect an occupied population suffering under decades of occupation, apartheid and dispossession.
“Just maybe this will mark the beginning of a different approach to achieving Palestinian rights and equality — with the world, not the United States, as the ‘honest broker.’
“… Twenty years of a U.S.-controlled process designed to maintain Israeli power and privilege is over. ‘It is enough.’”
Sources and notes
“Bye-Bye ‘Peace Process -- Palestine Comes to the UN” (Phyllis Bennis), September 21, 2011, http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/bye-bye_peace_process_palestine_comes_to_...
“Abbas at the United Nations a Game Changer? Maybe” (Phyllis Bennis), September 23, 2011, http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/abbas_at_the_united_nations_a_game_change...
Also listen on CounterSpin: “Phyllis Bennis on Palestinian statehood — Mainstream reporting on the Palestinian bid for UN recognition regularly employs loaded language in portraying the initiative as an underhanded gambit which is threatening to the U.S. and Israel. Exactly how does the Palestinian bid threaten anyone?
“Has the U.S. press always disdained unilateralism in Middle East? … CounterSpin talks with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
CounterSpin (9/23/11-9/29/11), http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4404
Veteran writer, analyst and activist on Middle East and UN issues, Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies and director of its New Internationalism Project. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. In 2001, Bennis helped found and remains on the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation.
She works closely with the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition and co-chairs the UN-based International Coordinating Network on Palestine. Since 2002, she has played an active role in the growing global peace movement. She continues to advise several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.
Books by Bennis include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer andCalling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today’s UN. http://www.ips-dc.org/staff/phyllis
A Palestinian politician, who served briefly as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2003, Mahmoud Abbas was elected PLO president in 2005 after the death of PLO president Yāsir Arafāt.
In the early 1990s, Mahmoud Abbas shaped Palestinian negotiating strategy at both the peace conference in Madrid (1991) and in secret meetings with the Israelis in Norway. Through the resulting Oslo Accords (1993), Israel and the Palestinians extended mutual recognition to each other, and Israel ceded some governing functions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to a Palestinian Authority.
Abbas was a senior member of the Palestinian delegation to the Camp David peace talks in July 2000 and adamantly rejected Israel’s peace offer but opposed the violent Palestinian uprising called the intifāḍah (Arabic: ‘shaking off’) that followed. In 2003, after intense international pressure, Abbas was installed as Palestinian prime minister as an effort to circumvent Arafāt, who was considered an impediment to peace by Israel and the United States. Abbas quickly renounced terrorism, called for an end to the intifāḍah against Israel, and resolved to create a single Palestinian armed force. He soon resigned from office saying he had been undermined by Israel, the United States, and Arafāt.
Following Arafāt’s death in November 2004, Abbas was named head of the PLO. In January 2005, he garnered more than 60 percent of the vote and won the election to succeed Arafāt as president of the Palestinian Authority.
Mahmoud Abbas was born (1935) in the Arab-Jewish town of Zefat and fled with his family to Syria during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Despite the family’s refugee status, Abbas earned a law degree from the University of Damascus. In the late 1950s, Abbas was one of the founders of Fatah, which spearheaded the Palestinian armed struggle and came to dominate the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
As head of the PLO’s international department in the late 1970s, Abbas was instrumental in forging contacts with Israeli peace groups. In 1982, Moscow State University awarded Mahmoud Abbas a doctorate in history. [Britannica note]
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