Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad, are sunk in gloom over what they perceive as US President Barak Obama repudiation of his promises to them and greater sympathy for the Netanyahu government's side of the Middle East dispute. They also see a spreading push in Europe, the Arab countries and Moscow for them to bite the bullet and reconcile themselves to partial or interim accords, since no feasible solutions are visible on the outstanding core issues of borders, refugees and Jerusalem.
debkafile reports Palestinian dignitaries as going around Washington and the Middle East complaining that the Obama administration has gone back on promises on four issues:
1. It declines to endorse former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's 2007 pledge that borders of a future Palestinian state would be "very close to the 1967 boundaries." US officials have given them to understand at meetings in Washington and Ramallah that their claims on the West Bank must be moderated.
2. The Palestinians say Washington is now reneging on the promises given in late 2009 and early 2010 by Gen. Jim Jones, then National Security Adviser at the White House, for US forces or a combined US-NATO force to be posted on Palestinian borders with Israel and Jordan and other strategic areas after statehood is attained. However, on Dec. 15, when the subject came up in their talks with George Mitchell, the special US Middle East envoy, it Ramallah, this promise appeared to have evaporated. The US view now is that mounting regional dangers make it mandatory for Israeli military elements to be incorporated in the international force. In other words, the IDF would retain a presence in the Palestinian state.
This development drew forth Abbas' unequivocal statement in Bethlehem Saturday, Dec. 25: "There will be no Israeli presence in the Palestinian state."
3. Washington is leaning heavily on the Palestinian Authority to stop lobbying Latin American capitals for recognition of a unilateral Palestinian state. Uruguay Saturday joined Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay with such declarations. The Palestinians are being advised not to submit any unilateral resolutions to the UN Security Council because they would not be passed.
4. The Palestinians accuse the US government of caving in to Israel on the matter of a settlement construction freeze. Building is proceeding undisturbed at a rapid tempo, they say.
The Palestinian beef is not only with the Americans. In recent weeks, Saudi voices, having criticized the Abbas-Fayyad tactics on peace diplomacy with Israel as inept, have advised them to go for an interim deal as their only realistic option. Moscow too has joined the chorus jarring on Palestinian ears in Ramallah since the senior Russian emissary and lawmaker and close associate of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Margelov held talks with Israeli political and military officials in Tel Aviv last week.
Following those interviews, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman once again declared that the only possible and desirable deal with the Palestinians as things stand to day was an interim accord. He was addressing Israeli envoys from around the world gathered in Jerusalem Sunday, Dec. 26, for a three-day briefing and airing of ideas.
debkafile's sources report the Palestinians believe the tide turned against them in US thinking 10 days earlier on Dec. 15-16 when two senior White House advisers and David Haie arrived for visits to the region.
Most of the Israeli media are still highlighting a comment by Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday. He said he wouldn't be surprised if the United States recognized a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders before the end of the coming year.
According to our sources, Ben Eliezer is not clued in on the state of Palestinian – or even Israeli – relations with Washington.