Politico revealed in an exclusive on Thursday that President Barack Obama rejected a deal to stop Palestinian statehood while pushing his Iran deal through Congress.
In fact, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) twice went to White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough for Obama to make a public statement on the issue of Palestinian statehood:
The requests from Reid came as he was trying to line up Democratic support for the Iran nuclear agreement. If Obama explicitly sided with Israel against the possible U.N. resolution, Reid’s thinking went, it would give nervous Democrats cover to back the Iran deal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vocally protested.
The repeated requests by Reid and Obama’s unwillingness to make a statement on the issue — confirmed by White House officials and Senate aides — highlights how wide the gulf between the Obama administration and Israeli government has become. It unfolded in the context of a personal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu that’s become highly toxic, poisoning U.S.-Israeli relations more widely.
Politico provides further details:
Behind the scenes, Reid — who is Obama’s most steadfast ally on Capitol Hill — first approached McDonough shortly after Earnest’s comments and asked that the president reverse his position.
McDonough said the White House “would look into it,” said a source close to the issue, but took no action.
On the second occasion, Reid, a strong supporter of Israel during his career in the Senate, believed such a declaration by Obama would help assuage nervous Senate Democrats as they weighed whether to back the president on the Iran nuclear deal. Reid was hopeful that he could block the Iran disapproval resolution, but he wanted to be certain he would have the votes in the face of fierce opposition from pro-Israeli groups.
Again, McDonough didn’t quite say no to Reid. He essentially said not yet.
But the answer essentially boiled down to no. The White House said it was opposed to the Palestinians going the U.N. route, but that Obama wouldn’t make a public declaration himself.
Reid’s office declined to comment for this story.
This is significant given Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech at the United Nations on Wednesday, which effectively declared war on Israel with his announcement that Palestine will no longer cooperate with the Oslo Accords.
“We…declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power, because the status quo cannot continue,” Abbas said.
Abbas accused Israel of violating its commitments in the Oslo Accords, including the building of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, not releasing Palestinian prisoners, blockading the Gaza Strip and altering the status quo of Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Abbas concluded on a supposedly "conciliatory" note, calling for eventual peace between Israel and Palestine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not pleased with Abbas's speech and pointed out that Abbas has never responded to Netanyahu's request for direct negotiations without preconditions.
"The fact that time after time he (Abbas) does not respond is the best proof that he has no intention of reaching a peace agreement," Netanyahu said. Netanyahu also called Abbas's speech "deceitful" and said it "encourages incitement and lawlessness in the Middle East."
The Palestinian flag was also raised outside the U.N. headquarters in New York for the first time, a symbolic move that puts them a step closer to statehood
Abbas's comments on the Oslo Accords are essentially declaring war on Israel. Here's what Article XV of the 1995 Oslo II agreements says:
Prevention of Hostile Acts
- Both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other, against individuals falling under the other's authority and against their property, and shall take legal measures against offenders.
- Specific provisions for the implementation of this Article are set out in Annex I.
While the Associated Press writes that Abbas did not call for an end to security cooperation with Israel, Palestinian Liberation Organization member Mustafa Barghouti told CNN that Abbas had basically nullified the Oslo Accords, and Abbas had recently threatened a new intifada against Israel. So what would stop Abbas from violating the Prevention of Hostile Acts clause of the Oslo Accords?
Abbas's assertion that Israel has violated the Oslo Accords is false. As Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine writes:
The actual number of settlements in the West Bank has remained largely unchanged. No new vast areas of land to which the Palestinians can assert ownership have been taken from them. All that has happened is that new houses have been built inside existing settlements or in Jerusalem, which Israelis consider their united capital city. The Palestinians may not like the fact that there are more Jews in the West Bank, but with few exceptions Israeli governments of both the left and the right have maintained the status quo in the West Bank in terms of land under their control.
Israel has also not changed anything in regards to Temple Mount:
To the contrary, it is the Palestinians who are seeking to exclude Jewish visitors to the holiest site in Judaism. Abbas has cynically sought to exploit this issue in order to whip up Palestinian resentment of Jews as part of his failing effort to compete with Hamas.
Tobin thinks that Abbas is simply blowing hot air:
Now serving the 11th year of the four-year term as president of the PA, Abbas relies on Israel for security to ensure against a Hamas coup as well as for the money he needs to keep his kleptocracy propped up. Though he is always threatening to resign or to dissolve the PA, it will never happen because that would mean the end of Fatah’s ability to control West Bank life and leave the area open to Hamas.
While one can hope Abbas's words ring hollow, they cannot be ignored given his threats of another intifada and that any other agreements would not necessarily bind Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority's real goal is to kill Israelis, as a top official who is close to Abbas admitted in August 2014, and they refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
But the main concern, as Tobin points out, is that President Barack Obama might not veto a resolution that recognizes Palestine's independence on the Security Council, a move that would put further strains on the United States' relationship with Israel and result in further acts of violence, as well as legitimating a terror state.