Gaza Shrugs

GAZA CITY – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has now personally presented Palestine’s bid for full United Nations membership to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. What remains to be seen is whether Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 2007, will eventually support this initiative by its bitter rival, Abbas’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The failure for more than a year to make any progress in negotiations with Israel has convinced Abbas and his colleagues to pursue the UN option. And Israel’s continuing settlement construction on the West Bank has sharpened their sense that negotiations would not be productive, whereas the raft of UN resolutions supporting a two-state solution could now be put to the test.

Moreover, it is widely believed that the Arab Spring has encouraged the Palestinian leadership to seek to change the rules of the game. Arabs throughout the region, though preoccupied with domestic affairs, are nonetheless pressing a new generation of leaders to support the Palestinian cause more actively.

The collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, the subsequent departure of the Israeli ambassador from Cairo, the political upheaval in Syria, and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara are causing great uncertainty in Israeli leadership circles. Israel is more isolated regionally and internationally than ever, owing to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu diplomatic failures. Abbas, whose bid is supported unanimously by the Arab and most Islamic countries, is convinced that the Arabs will stand with the Palestinians, regardless of the consequences.