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Wag the dog

Earlier this week, I noted that PA President Abbas was in the process of deciding whether to engage in “proximity talks” with Israel, and would consult with Arab states about the matter this week. However, I neglected to emphasize the sad fact that Abbas thinks he needs approval from Arab leaders before he can engage in non-talk talks with Israel.
That fact is not lost on Elliott Abrams. In a column called “Who Speaks for the Palestinians?” he presents a compelling case that the answer is not the hapless Abbas. According to Haaretz, the PA president will dutifully await a Saturday vote by the Arab League’s “Monitoring Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative” and is unlikely to accept any offer for peace talks that does not meet the panel’s approval.
This means that Israel cannot truly engage in a “peace process” with the Palestinians (a foolish enough errand under current circumstances), but instead will ultimately be negotiating with the Arab states, including the likes of Syria which is currently supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles.
Abbas is scheduled to visit the White House in mid-May. But, other than conferring undeserved prestige on the PA president, Obama’s goals would be better served by inviting Bashar al Assad and eliminating the middle man.
As Abrams concludes, “once again the Arab states intrude deeply into the ‘peace process,’ and as always they will have their own national interests at heart–not the fate of the Palestinians.” Moreover, “it is a keen measure of the fall of American influence in the region when a Palestinian leader responds to intense American pressure to go to the negotiating table by waiting to see if Arab League foreign ministers will let him take that step.”

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