The New Roadmap Starts in Europe
Introducing the Vatican-Lite Option
I may lose my bet after all! French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who like President Obama opposes a Palestinian resolution in the U.N. Security Council but is somewhat more sympathetic to President Abbas’ diplomacy, has essentially taken the plan that EU foreign policy Catherine Ashton was working on in Jerusalem and Ramallah last week—in which she essentially went off-script (“rogue,” I believe I called it)—and has run with it. As expert U.N. beat report Colum Lynch lays it out, the plan goes, roughly, like this:
• Tomorrow, Abbas submits his resolution, requesting full membership, to the Security Council. Then, he goes home.
• The Security Council sets up a committee to consider the resolution that is basically designed to take forever.
• The Europeans (not the United States—more on that in a second) would then work with the Palestinians on a General Assembly resolution that would involve some sort of symbolic recognition and status upgrade while preventing the Palestinians from doing things like appealing to the International Criminal Court. This was the Ashton innovation, which she created (apparently along with Quartet envoy Tony Blair) without, initially, European consultation. Let’s call it the Vatican-Lite Option, since even the Vatican, which is not a full member of the U.N., would rank above the Palestinians. UPDATE: I am misunderstanding. The proposal would involve an upgrade to full Vatican-level status, along with a sort of gentlemen’s agreement under which Abbas would pledge not to go to the ICC during negotiations.
• Meanwhile, the Quartet would set a timeline for direct talks: resumption in a month; demands from each sides in three months; agreements on borders and security in half a year. This reflects Obama’s May speech.
The Palestinians and the Israelis would have to actually accept all this, of course. Until they do, the big story here, as I hinted a week ago, is the U.S.’s being supplanted or at least joined by Europe (for now, France) as the regional broker able to crack heads and get things done. Obama’s speech yesterday appears to have been a real turning point: while the Israelis, up to and including far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, had nothing but praise for it, the Palestinians, the American left, and much of the rest of the world felt Obama was going too easy on Israel. Obama’s return to the no-daylight feature of the special relationship—in which the U.S. and Israel stand together—seems to some extent to have isolated the two countries, together. Some will argue that if Obama had never abandoned that policy in the first place, he would never have then had to return to it, as he did yesterday, and thereby cause this loss of stature. Others will argue that if it were not for extreme domestic political pressures on Obama, summoned in no small part by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s canny cultivation of U.S. politicians (and particularly the Republican Party), then yesterday’s speech and the U.S.’s subsequent marginalization wouldn’t have been necessary. There is truth to both claims.
Sarkozy Steals the Show [Turtle Bay]
Obama Rebuffed as Palestinians Pursue U.N. Seat [NYT]
Netanyahu, Lieberman Praise Obama’s Speech, While Palestinians Pan It [JTA]
Earlier: Europe Eases Into Spotlight Ahead of U.S. Vote
Abbas’ Gambit Looking More Like a Bluff