Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Munich Three Target Israel

First published on

In 1938, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany met in Munich to decide the fate of Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was not invited. The three conferees agreed to strip the targeted nation of the Sudetenland, whose population consisted largely of ethnic Germans, and transfer that territory to German control. This deprived the victim state not simply of land but of those areas - mountainous, fortifiable - necessary for Czechoslovakia to be able to defend itself.

Today, the same three nations are doing the same vis-a-vis Israel. They are discarding UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed unanimously in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and since then the cornerstone for all Middle East negotiations. They are ignoring the language of the resolution and the explicit declarations of its authors that Israel should not be forced to return to the pre-1967 armistice lines; that those lines left defense of the country too precarious and should be replaced by "secure and recognized boundaries" to be negotiated by Israel and its neighbors.

Lord Caradon, Britain’s ambassador to the UN at the time and the person who introduced Resolution 242 in the Security Council, told a Lebanese newspaper in 1974: "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers of each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to..." Arthur Goldberg, the American UN ambassador, made much the same point, stating that the reference to "secure and recognized boundaries" intentionally pointed to the parties negotiating new lines entailing a less than complete Israeli withdrawal and that "Israel’s prior frontiers had proved notably insecure." Lyndon Johnson, then President, declared Israel’s retreat to its former lines would be "not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities." He advocated new "recognized boundaries" that would provide "security against terror, destruction, and war."

Subsequent American presidents have reiterated Israel’s right to defensible borders.

The dangers for Israel of a return to the pre-1967 cease-fire lines are evident from even minimal consideration of the region’s topography. Such a withdrawal would not only reduce the nation to a width of nine miles at its center but would entail Israel’s handing over to people who continue to call for her ultimate dissolution control of hill country entirely dominating the coastal plane that is home to some 70% of Israel’s population.

It would also give potential hostile forces beyond the Jordan River untrammeled access to those heights.

This was what the drafters of Security Council Resolution 242 sought to preclude. And this is what the Munich Three now choose to ignore by calling upon the Quartet or the UN to abandon the emphasis on negotiations between the parties and to present a plan of its own based on Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 lines.

In the wake of the 1938 Munich agreement, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared, of course, that the parties had achieved "peace in our time." But Britain and France also offered solemn promises that, should Germany unexpectedly violate the agreement and move against what remained of Czechoslovakia, they would come to the rump nation’s defense.

Less than six months after Munich, Hitler conquered the rest of Czechoslovakia. Britain and France did nothing.

Now we have Britain, France and Germany swearing their dedication to Israel’s security and well-being, even as they meet, with Israel uninvited, and seek to strip her of defensible borders, and even as they have, in fact, neither the will nor the capacity to help defend Israel from the existential threats to which they would subject her.

What they do have the capacity to do - adhere to their obligations under Resolution 242, support a division of the West Bank that would entail Israel retaining defensible borders while allowing the vast majority of Palestinians to pursue a separate political course - they refuse to do.

There are other things Britain, France and Germany could do to advance genuine peace. They could work for an end to the genocidal incitement against Israel, and Jews more generally, purveyed by both Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. But instead they not only typically ignore Palestinian incitement but actually fund it, both in their individual contributions to the Palestinians and in their bankrolling of the Palestinians through the European Union. Some of these funds go directly to organs of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement.

Germany could also curb its lucrative role in financing the Iranian regime, whose stated objective is Israel’s annihilation. But it has refused to do so.

In some respects the moral bankruptcy of today’s betrayal of Israel exceeds that of the betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Then, for example, Hitler vowed the Sudetenland would be his last territorial claim in Europe. There was at least this figleaf, however flimsy, for believing the Munich agreement might mean peace and rump Czechoslovakia might survive. In contrast, no Palestinian leader pretends an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines would mean an end to Palestinian claims against Israel. All insist on a "right of return" to pre-1967 Israel for refugees of the 1947-48 war and their descendants; an objective that amounts to the dismantling of the Jewish state. And all Palestinian parties continue to indoctrinate their constituents, including their children, to believe Israel has no right to exist and to dedicate themselves to her destruction.

The United States has acted to postpone the planned April meeting of the Quartet, where the Munich Three were hoping to see the emphasis on bilateral, Israeli-Palestinian, negotiations, and on Security Council Resolution 242, formally abandoned in favor of an international plan based on Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 lines. But they may pursue the same objective at a future Quartet meeting. In addition, the Palestinians are threatening to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state with borders defined by the pre-1967 boundaries, a course that likewise converges with the Munich Three’s agenda.

Churchill said of Chamberlain after Munich, "He was given a choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor and he will have war anyway."

The Munich Three had a choice between adhering to the central international agreement regarding resolution of the conflict and pushing Abbas to resume negotiations on the basis of that agreement or betraying their international commitments, betraying Israel, and almost certainly subjecting the region to more war and carnage. To their dishonor, they have chosen the latter.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Israeli Settlements, Jewish Boycotts, and "The Tent"

First published on

Should Jewish groups that boycott settlements be included within the tent of American Jewish organizations that join together to -- among other communal objectives -- defend Israel against assaults on her legitimacy and right to exist?

An answer was offered recently by Martin Raffel, senior vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the national umbrella organization of local Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country. Raffel also wears another hat. Last fall, the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America created the Israel Action Network and charged it with "stand[ing] up against anti-Israel initiatives... and actively promot[ing] a fair and balanced picture of the Middle East among key constituencies." Raffel serves as the IAN's project director. A few weeks ago, Raffel opined:

"...[W]hat to think about Zionists on the political left who have demonstrated consistent concern for Israel's security, support Israel's inalienable right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, and consider Israel to be the eternal home of the Jewish people -- but have decided to express their opposition to specific policies of the Israeli government by refraining from participating in events taking place in the West Bank or purchasing goods produced there? I vigorously would argue that such actions are counter-productive in advancing the cause of peace based on two states that they espouse, a goal that we share. But this is not sufficient cause to place them outside the tent."

Raffel's formulation is a bit disingenuous in that the groups in question do not merely "refrain from participating" in events in the West Bank or from purchasing goods produced there. Rather, they actively exhort the public to join their boycott. If this were not so, few would be aware of their stance, and the question of letting them in or keeping them outside the tent would not arise.

In addition, while Raffel characterizes those he has in mind as having "demonstrated consistent concern for Israel's security," how is he measuring this? The statement assumes that boycotting West Bank communities can be congruent with defending Israel's long-term well-being.

It is clear why some would like to believe this without examining the question too closely.

Israel is under siege by people calling for her dissolution. This goes beyond the genocidal agenda promoted in the media, mosques and schools of much of the Arab world, including those of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It extends to delegitimization of the Jewish state, and a propaganda assault aimed at her demise, in major media, on university campuses, and elsewhere across Europe and, to a lesser but still troubling extent, in the United States as well. At the same time, many others, including leaders of European governments and our own President, declare their dedication to Israel's well-being but -- against overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- insist that the settlements are the major obstacle to peace, and that if only Israel would abandon the settlement project and retreat essentially to the pre-1967 armistice lines the door to peace would open.

Under these circumstances, some in the Jewish community are inexorably drawn to embrace the position of the latter camp without looking too closely at its dangerous anti-Israel distortions. One reason is the allure of wishful thinking that this camp's stance entails: the false promise that peace can be had if Israel would only make sufficient concessions. Another reason is that those who are open-eyed and honest about Israel's predicament, who recognize and publicly declare it is Arab refusal to reconcile to Israel's existence, and not the settlements, that is the crux of the conflict, are widely smeared and reviled for their candor. The prospect of espousing that candor and being subject to such attack is too disconcerting for many Jews. In addition, some convince themselves that by signing on to the "settlements are the key" camp they are not only joining a more popular, and therefore more comfortable, constituency but are also strengthening a stance that is a viable counterweight to the exterminationist camp -- to those dedicated to Israel's destruction.

Throughout Jewish history, under whatever conditions of assault, there have inevitably been some Jews who embrace elements of their adversary's indictments, however bigoted and divorced from reality, in the hope that by doing so and pushing accommodating reforms they will mollify enough of the attackers and win relief.

But to assess properly whether vocal opposition to and boycott of settlements are indeed consistent with support of Israel, community leaders, and community members more generally who are truly dedicated to the Jewish state's well-being and survival, must look beyond what is comfortable -- what is popular opinion in various media and political circles in Europe and America -- and consider the reality on the ground. One must consider the origins of the settlements and their current significance in the context of Israel's well-being and in the search for a genuine, sustainable peace.

The cornerstone of the quest for Arab-Israeli peace is UN Security Council Resolution 242, unanimously adopted a few months after the 1967 war. The resolution calls for negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors and for "secure and recognized boundaries" to be agreed upon through such negotiations. The resolution does not call for Israel to return to the pre-war armistice lines, and the resolution's authors stated that this omission was intentional, that those lines were an invitation to further aggression against Israel and the future borders ought to be elsewhere. Lord Caradon, Britain's ambassador to the UN at the time and the person who introduced Resolution 242 in the Security Council, told a Lebanese newspaper in 1974:

"It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers of each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That's why we didn't demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to..."

Lyndon Johnson, then President, stated that Israel's retreat to its former lines would be "not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities"; and he advocated new "recognized boundaries" that would provide "security against terror, destruction, and war."

The Israeli government at the time informally defined areas of the captured territory that it believed were vital for the country to retain in order to diminish the nation's earlier strategic vulnerability. These included the sparsely populated Jordan Valley, the main invasion route for hostile forces coming from the east; the heights dominating the valley as well as the heights overlooking the coastal plain, home to the great majority of Israel's population; and an enlarged Jerusalem together with its environs, in order to render the city more defensible.

The stance of the Labor Party, which led Israel for the decade following the 1967 war, was to push for an agreement that would have Israel keep these vital strategic areas while returning the balance of the West Bank, including areas home to the vast majority of the territory's Arab population, to Arab control.

The Labor government also embarked on construction of settlements in those areas it believed crucial for Israel to retain, in order to establish facts on the ground to reinforce Israel's claim to those areas. In a few instances, it also allowed reestablishment of a Jewish presence in locations of historic, religious importance to Jews. For example, it permitted the rebirth of a Jewish community in Hebron, which had been Judenrein since the Arab massacre of many of the town's Jews in 1929. Some political leaders who endorsed Labor's views on division of the territory nevertheless supported several such communities outside the boundaries of what they regarded as essential for defensible borders. They did so because they believed that, just as Arabs constituted what was then close to 20% of Israel's population, some Jews should be allowed to live in areas that would revert to Arab sovereignty, particularly areas of historic and religious significance to Jews.

The right-of-center Likud won control of the government in 1977 and for the next fifteen years either led the government or was equal or senior partner in governments of national unity. Likud party policy towards the West Bank eventually evolved into a plan for Arab autonomy under Israeli sovereignty, and Likud sponsored expansion of the settlement project both within and beyond the areas construed by Labor as necessary for defensible borders. But even during the years of Likud ascendancy, the great majority of Israelis, including much -- evidence suggests a majority -- of Likud's constituency, supported a division of the territory along the lines advocated by Labor.

In the 1992 election campaign, Labor, and its leader, Yitzhak Rabin, ran on a traditional party platform that emphasized the necessity of Israel retaining key strategic areas in the territories. At times, Rabin distinguished between security settlements and "ideological" settlements, suggesting the latter -- largely established under Likud -- were in areas not vital to the defense of the nation. But he repeatedly returned to the importance of Israel's retaining the former in the context of maintaining defensible borders. In his last speech in the Knesset, shortly before his assassination in November, 1995, Rabin declared:

"The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967lines.

"And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

"A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev -- as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

"B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

"C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the ‘Green Line,' prior to the Six Day War.

"D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria..."

If a significant number of Israelis were, during the Oslo years, less convinced of the need for defensible borders, those numbers have dramatically shrunk during the last decade, as Israel has been painfully reminded of the strategic realities of its predicament. The terror war launched by Arafat, after his rejection of concessions made by Ehud Barak at Camp David and further concessions proposed by President Clinton -- a war that cost Israel about a thousand dead and thousands more maimed -- woke many from their delusional slumber. Of those that continued deluded, more were finally forced to reconsider their wishful thinking in the wake of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and the aggression that has been the fruit of that territorial concession.

In any case, what grounds are there for considering Israel's strategic predicament, and its need for defensible borders, to be significantly different from what they were when Security Council Resolution 242 was written and unanimously adopted? Has the topography of the region changed? Does Hamas's call, in its charter and in its mosques and media and schools, for the murder of all Jews, reflect a more benign political environment? Or does Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority -- with its similar use of media, mosques and schools to denigrate all Israelis and Jews, to deny Jewish historic connection to any part of what was Mandate Palestine, to characterize Jews as usurpers whose presence must be expunged, and to glorify terrorist killers of Jews as models whom Palestinians should strive to emulate to rid the land of the Jewish state -- reflect some hopeful change that makes the need for defensible borders less vital? And what of the current upheaval in the Arab world, the turmoil in Egypt, the challenges to Jordan's government, the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon? Is any of this to be construed as diminishing the importance of defensible borders?

Given the obvious threats, does anyone genuinely concerned with Israel's well-being believe there is any substitute for Israel's continued control of strategically vital areas? A UN presence? We've seen the fecklessness of UN troops around the world, not least on Israel's borders with its neighbors -- from the UN's abandonment of its peacekeeping role along the Egyptian-Israeli border during the lead-up to the 1967 war, to the failure of the UN's force in Lebanon to fulfill its mission of preventing the rearming of Hezb'allah in Lebanon and reestablishment of Hezb'allah's strongholds in Lebanon's south. Precedent likewise weighs strongly against any other foreign presence being more promising and not, rather, presenting its own dangers to Israel's well-being and survival.

In view of all this, what does it mean to condemn and boycott settlements? In essence, those who do so support forcing Israel back to the pre-1967 cease-fire lines while offering no realistic plan for how the nation could defend itself within those lines. In fact, they do not even acknowledge the strategic threat.

Consider, for example, J Street, its stance on settlements, and its moral bankruptcy regarding the threats confronting Israel. While asserting it "will not participate in targeted boycott or divestment initiatives," the organization also "note[s] positively that some promoting BDS tactics are trying to narrow the scope of boycotts or divestment initiatives to oppose simply the occupation and not Israel itself." In addition, "We oppose the occupation of the West Bank and the expansion and entrenchment of settlements there. We also oppose encroachment on Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem which must be part of a future Palestinian capital if a two-state outcome is to be achieved." Clearly, J Street's agenda is to promote Israel's withdrawal virtually to the pre-1967 lines.

And on the issue of how Israel is to defend itself within those lines? J Street essentially denies there is a threat. It recently opposed a Congressional letter calling on President Obama to take stern steps against Palestinian incitement to violence in the wake of the Itamar massacre. J Street complained that the letter was too one-sided as it failed, for example, to address Israeli incitement. But, of course, there is nothing comparable on the Israeli side to the Palestinian Authority's rejection -- in its media, mosques and schools -- of Israel's right to exist and its indoctrination of Palestinians to the cause of killing Israelis and destroying their state. The J Street call for evenhandedness is simply an effort to trivialize and dismiss the problem of Palestinian incitement.

J Street similarly seeks to trivialize and dismiss the physical threats to Israel presented by its enemies and, in addition, to indict those who take the threats seriously. Such people are ridiculed as paranoiacs mentally scarred by past assaults on the Jews and simply projecting that past onto a relatively benign present. J Street has opposed stronger sanctions against Iran, and the organization's leader, Jeremy Ben-Ami, has characterized as irrational anyone who would construe the threat presented by Hamas or Hezb'allah or Iran so great as to justify a military response. Ben-Ami went on to observe, in a New York Times interview, "... there's their grandmother's voice in their ear; it's the emotional side and the communal history..."

Israel faces genocidal enemies, nations and groups openly dedicated to its annihilation. The country has a right to defend itself and to retain the capacity to do so. Yet there are Jews and Jewish organizations demanding concessions from Israel that would compromise its defense. They call for pressures to force it to accept such concessions, condemn the nation for resisting, and do so without addressing the threats faced by the nation. There are Jewish individuals and groups that ignore the threats, and the long and continuing history of assaults upon Israel by her neighbors, and cast Israel's insistence upon defensible borders as land grabs, as rejection of peace, as colonial expansionism. Such people are defaming the Jewish state and making common cause with those who would destroy her.

For organizations genuinely dedicated to Israel's well-being to welcome such individuals and groups - caricatures and travesties of pro-Israel efforts - within the tent of Israel's supporters, to lend them that legitimacy, is a betrayal of the cause of the Jewish state's survival and security.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Abbas and the 'Plan of Stages'

First published in The Jewish Press

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has refused to resume negotiations with Israel. His, and the PA's, alternative course goes beyond their recent attempt to gain United Nations Security Council condemnation of Israeli settlements, or their plan to pursue a condemnation of settlements in the UN General Assembly next fall. Abbas is also threatening to seek recognition from the UN of Palestinian statehood within borders defined by the pre-1967 cease-fire lines. He has, in addition, sought, and won, such recognition from various nations around the world, particularly in South America but elsewhere as well.

Abbas's path reflects, in fact, the perennial Palestinian objective of Israel's dissolution and the longstanding Palestinian strategy for achieving that goal. The Palestinian leadership has for decades striven to gain recognition, and territory, without acknowledging Israel's right to exist as the national homeland of the Jewish people and without giving up the pursuit of Israel's annihilation.

At the time of the initiation of the Oslo accords, on the evening of the famous signing and handshake on the White House lawn in September 1993, Yasir Arafat appeared on Jordanian television and explained to his constituency and wider Arab audience that they should understand Oslo in terms of the Palestine National Council's 1974 decision. This was a reference to the so-called Plan of Phases, formulated that year. The Plan called for the Palestine Liberation Organization to acquire whatever territory it could by negotiations, then use that land as a base from which it would pursue its ultimate goal of Israel's destruction. Arafat repeated this understanding of Oslo many times thereafter.

Consistent with this strategy, Arafat was more than willing to take control of any territory ceded by Israel via the Oslo process while making in return commitments - particularly regarding ending terror and incitement - on which he consistently reneged and avoiding signing onto any limitation of future Palestinian territorial claims. When, under pressure from President Clinton, he reluctantly entered "final status" talks with Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in July 2000, Arafat rejected all the concessions offered by Barak and Clinton and refused to put forward counter-proposals. He was unwilling to accede to any accord, whatever the territorial and other concessions made by Israel, because an "end-of-conflict" agreement was now expected of him in return and he was not interested in ending the conflict and forgoing future, additional, Palestinian demands.

Around the same time, Arafat spoke of declaring a state unilaterally, as a way, again, of establishing "Palestine" without signing away future claims against Israel. Clinton made it clear the U.S. would not support such a unilateral move and, not least because of U.S. pressure, European states conveyed the same message.

When, after Camp David, Arafat launched his terror war against Israel, he did so once more with the intention of establishing a de facto state without signing a final peace accord. He had some hope of seizing additional territory via his terror campaign, but he also seems to have hoped the violence he triggered - particularly if it led to an incident that entailed significant loss of civilian lives on the Palestinian side - would win him greater world sympathy and an increased willingness by European and other nations to recognize a unilaterally declared state.

Short of this, he would try to parlay the carnage into international intervention and the introduction of an international force in the territories to "protect" the Palestinians. Such a force would inevitably provide a shield behind which Arafat could continue to pursue his terror attacks, would severely compromise Israel's ability to respond to the terror, and would in effect give Arafat his de facto state without his having signed a final status agreement.

Abbas, a longtime associate of Arafat and member of the Fatah and PLO leadership, has largely followed Arafat's course. He has not actively pursued a terror campaign - and he was critical of the terror war launched by Arafat - but he made clear at the time, and in statements since then, that his opposition to the manner in which Arafat used terror was purely tactical. He felt it did not serve to advance the Palestinians' ultimate goals.

Abbas has also made clear that those goals, for him, are the same as for Arafat.

He has refused to recognize Israel's legitimacy as the Jewish state, the expression of the right of national self-determination accorded other peoples, even though the original UN resolution on the division of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan called for the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state.

He has refused to consider any compromise regarding Palestinian insistence on a so-called right of return: the right of Palestinians to settle en masse inside whatever remains of Israel rather than have Palestinians settle in the new state created for them - a swamping of Israel that would, in effect, entail the dissolution of the state.

And he has given no indication of any willingness to agree to a final status accord.

Some have argued that Abbas would be inclined to be more forthcoming than Arafat but is inhibited by his political weakness, by the fact that his Fatah cadres and the wider Palestinian public are unprepared for reconciliation with Israel and for any compromise of demands that serve the goal of Israel's ultimate destruction. But Abbas has followed Arafat in using the mosques, media and schools under his control to militate against any peaceful resolution of the conflict. The message conveyed by all three is that Jews have no historical connection to any part of Palestine, that they are mere usurpers whose presence must be expunged, and that it is the duty of every Palestinian to pursue that goal.

In addition, Abbas has personally praised terrorists who have killed Israelis as the ideal that all Palestinians should strive to emulate and has explicitly endorsed efforts to delegitimize Israel and its right to exist within any borders.

Media reports some weeks ago of newly revealed documents showing supposed concessions by the PA in negotiations in 2008 with the Olmert administration do not change this picture.The contents of the documents are actually consistent with longstanding, widely known statements by PA leaders hinting at a willingness to entertain some limited land swaps and offering virtually no concessions on the "right of return." In addition, while the PA under Abbas has at times spoken of accepting such territorial positions, it has never actually signed off on any agreement with Israel. Arafat's negotiators, too, at times made conciliatory sounds and poured over maps as though seriously contemplating reaching compromises, but Arafat ultimately always balked and demanded more. At times the conciliatory feints were primarily for Israeli consumption, at times they were aimed more at placating the Americans. (Secretary of State Rice was present at some of the discussions documented in the recently released materials.) There is no reason to believe that the 2008 talks represented anything different from those earlier kabuki dances.

And those 2008 talks took place against a background of increasing and incessant rocket and mortar attacks against Israel from Gaza, and it was clear Israel would soon have to respond to this assault with an incursion into Gaza aimed at ending it. Abbas was very much interested in Israel's destroying Hamas in Gaza and handing Gaza over to the PA. A further motive for hinting at possible compromises, at least on territorial issues, may well have been a wish to have Israel believe it had a "partner" in the PA and therefore be more willing to expend Israeli lives to install the PA in Gaza rather than engaging in a more limited operation to try to end Gazan rocket fire and other terror attacks.

Also noteworthy was the nature of Abbas's outrage over the leaking of the documents. He not only argued that some claims of PA concessions were exaggerated, but tried to disown even the more modest hints at compromise actually contained in the documents. In fact, even though there have been suggestions of his entertaining such moves in the past, Abbas does not want to be seen by the Palestinian public as genuinely considering any compromises. This is consistent with his continuing the indoctrination of Palestinians, including Palestinian children, against accepting anything short of tactical steps that do not impinge on the ultimate objective of Israel's destruction and its replacement by a Palestinian Muslim state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.

Abbas believes he's in a much better position than was Arafat to realize Arafat's dream of establishing a state on virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza and doing so without signing an agreement that would preclude the ongoing pursuit of Israel's demise; that is, in taking a major step towards completing the Plan of Phases. His belief is grounded largely in his perception of President Obama as an ally in this program.

As incisively conveyed by the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl following a May 2009 interview with Abbas shortly before the PA leader's first meeting with Obama, Abbas was convinced there was nothing he needed to do but to wait until the president delivered the Israelis for him.

Obama had already made a total Israeli settlement freeze - something to which no previous Israeli government had ever agreed and which had never been demanded by the Palestinians as a condition for earlier talks - the central issue in his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He had done so while asking nothing of Abbas - nothing vis-à-vis ending incitement and preparing his population for reconciliation with Israel; nothing regarding recognizing Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, even as both Abbas and Obama expected Israel to recognize, and help in establishing, a nation-state for the Palestinians; nothing on ending the demand for a "right of return" aimed at destroying Israel demographically.

Some have suggested that Obama's stance on settlements forced Abbas to balk at negotiations, since he could hardly be seen as asking for less than an American president. But even after Netanyahu had begun implementing a ten-month freeze on building, Abbas waited until shortly before the end of the freeze to agree to negotiations - and then made an extension of the freeze a condition for his continuing negotiations. So in this particular case, Abbas merely used Obama's stance as a convenient excuse for pursuing his long-defined objective of avoiding all negotiated concessions that might impinge on future demands.

That objective is the motivation as well for Abbas's seeking recognition of Palestinian demands in other forums: pushing for a UN Security Council condemnation of all "settlement" activity; likely seeking the same next fall in the General Assembly and perhaps seeking as well recognition of a Palestinian state demarcated by the pre-1967 cease-fire lines; requesting and obtaining from various nations such recognition of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines. Again, all these steps reflect Arafat's policy of gaining a state in the territories without conceding future claims against Israel; that is, without foreswearing future phases in the Plan of Phases.

That Abbas's aggressiveness and success in these other forums have far exceeded Arafat's achievements once more owes much to President Obama. While the U.S. vetoed the Security Council resolution on settlements, it did so while vigorously condemning settlement activity, falling short of calling them "illegal" but coming closer to doing so than any U.S. president other than Jimmy Carter (the only one who has so characterized settlements) - and continuing to present settlements as the central issue in the conflict.

The fact that nations such as France, Britain and Germany voted for the Security Council resolution, and that many nations in South America and elsewhere have recognized "Palestine" with territories marked by the pre-1967 armistice lines, reflects the failure of the Obama administration to replicate President Clinton's strong stance against such moves and firm insistence that the U.S. would support only resolution of the conflict through bilateral negotiations.

That Latin American nations have led the way in signing on to the Palestinian program may also reflect the Obama administration's weak policies in South and Central America, the rise of Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez as the "strong horse" in the region, Obama's seeking to ingratiate himself with, rather than challenge, Chavez and the South and Central American leaders allied with him, and Obama's undercutting of democratic allies in the region such as Columbia and Honduras.

Indeed, the Obama administration has made virtually no effort to dissuade South and Central American nations from recognizing "Palestine." It has not forcefully pointed out that such recognition undermines the emphasis on bilateral negotiations as the key to an enduring agreement, and has not even put its full weight behind the centrality of bilateral negotiations. In contrast, Chavez and his backers, like their Iranian allies, have been strong advocates of all anti-Israel gestures.

There is little evidence of anything inhibiting Abbas's strategy from winning additional victories, and even less evidence of the Obama administration doing anything to counter that strategy. On the contrary, even in the midst of all the recent upheaval in the Arab world, with the possible emergence of Islamist forces gaining control of vast new territories and presenting, in conjunction with Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah, a much amplified threat to Israel, the Obama administration continues to increase the pressure on Israel for territorial and other concessions in the service of "peace."

There is also little evidence that any facts on the ground, any reality, can shift Obama from his rigid, ideologically-driven position on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The real, thus far unanswered, question is whether Israel is prepared to play Czechoslovakia to Obama's Neville Chamberlain.