Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been on a tear, attempting to cut short the Palestinian path to statehood by bypassing the tiresome—and often disheartening—peace process with Israel, going instead for recognition from international bodies of various shapes and colors.
So now Prime Minister Netanyahu is retaliating. “The Palestinian Authority has chosen confrontation with Israel and we will not sit idly by, ” Netanyahu announced last week, and, to back the threat with action, this past weekend, Israel froze tax money it collected for the Palestinians. That money is the lifeblood of the PA—those gulf states may promise billions in support, but in reality it’s Israel that actually delivers cash.
And Netanyahu’s minister for strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, promised more of the same and then some. “If the Palestinian Authority continues to attack us, I assume we will consider other steps, ” he said.
Over the weekend, Abbas declared he plans to resubmit to the Security Council the draft resolution that imposes on Israel a three-year deadline to end the occupation, the very same resolution the very same Security Council rejected only a week ago.
“We have not failed in the Security Council, ” Abbas told a crowd in Ramallah Sunday evening, the Security Council failed us…
But as of January 1, five new non-permanent members, including Malaysia and Venezuela—not friends of Israel by any stretch—have joined the big boys, and the new lineup might go for it. It being a Palestinian state that Israel does not recognize and does not support.
In addition, the Palestinians have joined the International Criminal Court, which can’t give them a state, but can sure embarrass Israeli politicians by entertaining Palestinian suits on war crimes against them.
And so, in a second bid for retaliation, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz on Sunday that Netanyahu was going to lobby the pro-Israel members of the US Congress (and who over there who isn’t?) to enforce a law that would halt the stop-gap funding bill of $400 million in American aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The law stipulates that U.S. economic support to the PA would be frozen, should the PA “initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”
Here’s the central error committed by Chairman Abbas: he tested Netanyahu during the three-month period just before the new elections, a time when politicians on the right tend to prefer their muscular, confrontational pose, over their attentive, reasonable, post-election pose. Abbas walked into this baseball bat, and there’s no telling how the situation can be kept from spiraling into a major confrontation, including all the nasty, violent aspects of these things.
There’s only one way to avoid disaster — Abbas must climb down from his tree, as the Israeli adage suggests. He’s already done something to that end, suggesting the PA wasn’t going to sue Israel for war crimes just yet, they only felt like joining the international court a little, try it on for size.
There were also some threats from the Palestinian side, that the Authority would dissolve itself and lay the governing of the territories at the IDF’s feet.
It’s a valid threat, it’s a good comeback, but like all things in our universe, it comes with unexpected consequences: the IDF might just prove to be a much better governor for those territories, and the local Arabs might decide they like it better “occupiued.”