Abbas, in his anger over the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has been traveling far and wide seeking to invite other players to be involved in Middle East peacemaking in order to push aside the traditional U.S. role as mediator, or at the very least dilute it until it is practically meaningless.
Abbas received applause at the Security Council for his speech where he presented his plan (while also spreading smears against Israel). Applause is extremely rare at the council, but exception is made, of course, for attacks on Israel (when resolution 2334 passed in December 2016, there was also a sickening display of euphoria at the council).
This multilateral ploy is another in a line of Palestinian attempts to avoid serious negotiations that will force uncomfortable compromises upon them. Increasing the actors in these negotiations has never been a recipe for success — it only means increasing the number of interests and personalities involved, which serves to inhibit the process, not encourage compromise.
The only times when real progress has been made in relations between Israel and her Arab neighbors has come when the two sides have taken the initiative and met in smaller settings and behind closed doors, sometimes with the U.S. helping to mediate differences and bridge gaps, but never imposing solutions. Negotiations between Israel and Egypt in the 1970’s, Israel and Jordan in the 1990’s and Israel and the Palestinians leading up to the Oslo Accords were two-party talks (three-party at most).
The Madrid Peace Conference was a breakthrough in some ways, as countries that had refused to recognize Israel joined the meeting and sat at the table with Israeli representatives. The Madrid process after the conference, however, became bogged down. The Middle East Quartet (made up of the U.S., Russia, E.U. and U.N.), which has been in existence for over 15 years, has not brought forth Palestinian goodwill into honest negotiations.
The Arab League’s Arab Peace Plan of 2003 sought to impose a solution on Israel (and an unacceptable solution, at that). Not surprisingly, it has not led to any significant breakthroughs either. France led an effort for a multilateral summit in Paris last year. It produced an outcome document, and little else.
The Palestinians are well aware of this history. The idea to create an expansive multilateral process is not new, and is unworkable. Abbas is not looking for a peaceful solution to the conflict; he is looking to avoid negotiations at all costs. A new multilateral mechanism will just be a waste time. It is difficult for entities (both countries and organizations) to resist the siren call of Middle East peacemaking — all except for the Palestinian leadership, that is — but those who are truly interested in seeking a true peace must decline to be a part of this latest Abbas farce. There will only be peace when the Palestinians are interested in ending the conflict. Unfortunately, Abbas is only proving that he is still not ready to engage seriously.