Mahmoud Abbas is struggling to save the Palestinian Authority from the bankruptcy and collapse dogging its steps since he submitted his bid for the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state.
In response to a battery of SOS signals to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent his special envoy to London for a secret meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15 with senior White House advisers David Hale and Dennis Ross to see how to help him out of his quandary.
Both wanted to know first if Abbas would withdraw his UN application if the money transfers frozen after his UN initiative were resumed. Anyway, the application is stuck in the Security Council for lack of a majority to approve it.
They also asked the Palestinian leader about the next steps he planned in the coming months.
After he gained UNESCO acceptance, they specifically questioned him about his applications to join the World Health Organization and the World trade Organization and the request for the General Assembly to upgrade Palestinian observer status to non-member observer.
But Abbas has managed to practically burn his bridges to both Washington and Jerusalem since a secret plan came to light which he meant to put into effect in consequence of acceptance by those international bodies:
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington and Jerusalem disclose information received that the Palestinian leader planned to follow up Palestinian membership by using those world bodies to file suits with the International Criminal Court against Israeli national leaders and military commanders and later, against American individuals and organizations supporting the Jewish State.
Frozen out of Washington, Jerusalem and Arab capitals
For this reason, a majority of Israel's security cabinet decided against resuming money transfers to Ramallah at its meeting Monday, Nov. 14. $100 million was due in October. The Obama administration is likewise withholding the bulk of US aid funding from the Palestinian Authority ($600 million p.a.) pending satisfactory answers from Mahmoud Abbas.
So far, the horse-trading has led Abbas to indicate he may bow to the demands of Washington and Jerusalem to stop pressing for membership of any more UN institutions – but, to save face, only until the end of January. However, the PA's empty coffers are expected to drive him to extending this deadline to mid-2012 in the next stage of negotiations.
Since Abbas promoted the Palestinian application for UN membership in a dramatic speech to the UN General Assembly in September, he has been virtually shunned by US and Israeli contacts. He has not only been frozen out of Washington and Jerusalem; Saudi and Egyptian rulers want nothing more to do with him. The Arab League, immersed now in the Syrian crisis, completely avoids the Palestinian issue. The Arab capitals he frequented for years have pulled in the welcome mat.
Even the Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is avoiding him, even though Egypt's rulers made Meshaal's relocation from Damascus to Cairo contingent on a serious Palestinian reconciliation effort and the formation of a Palestinian unity government to rule the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Made irrelevant by the Arab Spring
Abbas tried leaking word this week that he was willing to let Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad go, to meet an old demand, but it was shrugged off by the Hamas leader, who knows that Abbas' influence and Ramallah's standing as the hub of Palestinian government will continue to wane so long as he doesn't come to terms with Hamas.
Abbas' most steadfast European friends, too, are too weighed down by their own financial crises to find time to attend to his grievances.
While the Palestinian leader's missteps are manifest, Palestinian influence on the international stage has ebbed fast thanks additionally to events in the Arab world. The Palestinians have played no part in any of the Arab revolts. They uttered not a word when Syrian military units stormed Palestinian refugee camps in Latakia and killed 150 inmates suspected of turning against the Assad regime.
Sitting passively in Ramallah without a word or impact on the fate of some three million Palestinians living in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, is undermining the Palestinian Authority's leaders no less than their rocky relations with the US and Israel.