About a year ago, President Obama told the UN General Assembly that a Palestinian state could be established within a year. It was, like so many of Obama's acts, an extravagant prediction which befitted a campaign, not a government. And it was only four months ago that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed a unity agreement with the terrorist Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Though the Obama administration has spent the last few weeks pulling frantically at every diplomatic string it could reach to stop him, Abbas will on Friday present an application for the UN to recognize the Palestinian Authority it as a nation-state. His proposed nation would be created on the pre-1967 War borders of Israel, leaving its capital, Jerusalem, outside its borders.
Abbas's move comes at a propitious time for Israel's enemies. Turkey is nearly at war with Israel, the Durban III conference on racism (aimed, again, at condemning Israel) will kick off later this month, and the Israeli ambassador to Egypt was the object of a successful Egyptian rescue mission when protesters tore down a wall of the Cairo embassy.
The unwisdom we were taught in the 1960s and 1970s was that the Arabs couldn't cooperate long enough to pull off a three-car funeral in the desert. And the idea that they would cooperate with the Turks or the Persians was laughable.
But, even then, it was clear that the Palestinians -- kept by the Arabs in permanent refugee status -- served the dual purpose of terrorist surrogates to attack Israel and as a lever against Israel with European and Asian nations interested only in access to Middle Eastern oil. The principal tactic alongside the latter was the ever-present propaganda that if Israel made peace with the Palestinians -- trading land for peace, allowing "refugees" the so-called "right of return" to reclaim land in Israel -- no other obstacle would prevent peace from breaking out all over the Middle East.
In Cairo two Junes ago, President Obama put America on record as agreeing with the idea that an Israeli-Palestinian peace was the predicate for resolving all the other Middle Eastern problems. By accepting that position, Obama enabled the disparate Islamic despotisms to pursue parallel courses toward the same goal: weakening Israel's legitimacy and its ability to defend itself. As I wrote at the time, that speech will cost lives. Now, as the president's former spiritual advisor might say, Obama's chickens are coming home to roost.
Turkey's steady devolution from secular democracy to Islamic radicalism began with Recip Tayyip Erdogan's ascension to the prime ministership in March 2003. Since then he has, with increasing speed, changed Turkey from Ataturk's secular democracy into an increasingly radical Islamic state. The Turkish constitution made the nation's military responsible for preserving its secularity which it did, several times since, by taking over the government. Erdogan removed military leaders disloyal to him, and the military's constitutional duty to guard the nation's democracy from religious radicalism is now just a memory.
Erdogan has used the May 2010 Mavi Marmara incident to build anti-Israeli fervor. Seeking to enforce its legal arms blockade against the Palestinian terrorists who rule the Gaza Strip, Israeli commandos botched the raid on the ship and nine of the people on the ship -- including eight Turkish activists -- were killed. Erdogan has demanded an Israeli apology and threatened to send Turkish navy ships to escort future ships past the blockade.
Erdogan is using Israel as a foil for his problems at home. Turkey's economy is faltering. The Israeli scholar Guy Bechor wrote recently that unemployment in Turkey has hit 13 percent and its central bank has borrowed recklessly, creating a credit bubble. When that bubble bursts, Erdogan's position will be tenuous. If the pressure builds sufficiently, Erdogan could be desperate enough to start a war with Israel.
And now Erdogan is engaged in diplomatic saber rattling over the coming Security Council debate on the Palestinian state application. At an Arab League meeting in Cairo this week, Erdogan said "Recognizing the Palestinian state is not an option, it is an obligation. It is time for the flag of Palestine to be hoisted at the United Nations." Norway, the most anti-Semitic nation in Europe, agrees.
Under Article IV of the UN charter, membership is open to all peace-loving states. All they have to do is get a resolution from the Security Council and present it to the General Assembly for a vote. (Never mind that the Palestinians, allied to Hamas, obviously aren't peace-loving. From its beginning, the UN's membership included the Soviet Union and now includes Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and a huge assortment of lesser despots, dictators, rogues, and terrorists.)
Obama is reportedly to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu before the UN session. Their relationship is tense, to say the least. Obama will pressure Netanyahu to make concessions before the UN vote, which Israel cannot do. The Obama administration has said that the U.S. would veto the Security Council resolution, which it must. But our diplomatic flailing continues.
The world's most popular politician -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- told the New York Times, "We're facing an Arab awakening that nobody could have imagined and few predicted just a few years ago. And it's sweeping aside a lot of the old preconceptions." The principal preconception being swept aside is that the United States has any influence over what happens in the Middle East.
By accepting the Arab position on Israeli-Palestinian peace as predicate for all other Middle Eastern concerns, Obama gave up any ability he had to influence them on that subject. Whatever vestigial influence Obama had was surrendered by Obama's claims of credit for the "Arab spring" that left Egypt in the hands of Islamic radicals after we eagerly abandoned Mubarak. Obama's action in Libya and inaction on Syria made clear his disdain for U.S. interests in the region, and thus he has abandoned much of them.
Obama's hostility to Netanyahu and Israel has achieved the opposite of the result he wanted. Israel realizes it is alone, and will ignore any effort by Obama to restrain its response to Turkish, Arab, or Palestinian aggression. Giving up leverage on Israel concomitantly lessens Obama's influence over its neighbors.
What will the veto of the Palestinian state resolution portend? Obama is playing for time. He wants a quiet Middle East, at least until 7 November 2012 and, in some ways, he'll get it. And one point of turmoil could, to a small degree, benefit Israel.
Obama's luck will hold after the veto because the protests and riots that result won't gain U.S. voters' attention. That will be business as usual for the Middle East and few Americans will pay heed. But if a real war breaks out -- for example, if Erdogan is reckless enough to send a blockade-busting force against Israel -- Obama would have to act. Erdogan's actions will be calibrated to Turkey's economic problems, so they are hard to foresee. Other Islamic despots -- especially the terror sponsors in Syria and Iran -- will be able to out wait the U.S. election cycle.
One point of instability is the Palestinians themselves. Abbas, already under verbal attack for going to the UN, could be under real attack if he is perceived to have surrendered to the U.S. Security Council veto. The terrorist Hamas group -- with which Abbas made a strategic agreement earlier this year -- says the UN application is a violation of that agreement. When his UN application is blocked, Hamas will likely begin a new "intifada" terror campaign against Israel, which Abbas won't have the power or desire to stop.
While all this goes on, the UN's "Durban III" conference on racism will convene later this month, its participants eager to renew the infamous 1975 UN resolution that said that Zionism was a form of racism. They will, conveniently, forget the words of Palestinian representative to the U.S. Maen Areikat who told reporters that Jews should be excluded from a new Palestinian state.
Obama's extravagant claims at home and abroad -- remember the stimulus that would bring unemployment below 8 percent or the Libya "kinetic military action" that would be over in weeks, not months? -- make a shambles of his credibility. More importantly, and dangerously, it has left American influence in the Middle East as weak as Obama has rendered our economy.