Walter Russell Mead offers some needed perspective on the Palestinian cause today. Aside from Barack Obama what support does it have in the world today? And how have the Palestinians been doing in the geographic areas they control? Is Gaza a laboratory for Palestinian governance?
The vote is certainly a propaganda victory for the Palestinian cause, but it does nothing to help the Palestinians in practical terms. Indeed, a sober look at the situation suggests that the Palestinians have not been this weak, this divided or this helpless in many decades. Almost everywhere one looks around the world, the net effect of the policies of the Obama presidency has been to undermine the movements and the values that the President hoped to support; the cause of the Palestinians and the quest for the two state solution are no exceptions to the rule.
Many people pay lip service to the Palestinian cause. It’s one of the few remaining ways to be respectably anti-Semitic. And yet, while Israel advances diplomatically and politically and economically, the Palestinians are in retreat. The nations of the world have much to gain by having good relations with Israel. They have nothing to gain by supporting Palestinian intransigence and Jew-hatred.
Mead summarizes the state of Palestinian support around the world:
Meanwhile, the diplomatic success of the very professional and dedicated cadre of Palestinian representatives and notables who represent Palestinian interests to the international community has created a strong base of support for Palestinian aspirations in much of the world. But the last few years have seen a catastrophic decline in the power of Palestinian allies to affect events on the ground. The Sunni Arabs, the most natural if always self-interested and undependable allies of the Palestinian cause, are so weak and divided that they look to Israel as a defender of the Sunni world against the Persians and the Shi’a. The European Union has never been less able to exert influence beyond its frontiers. The incapacity of the United Nations to do anything concrete in the Middle East has never been more obvious; ask the people of Aleppo how much of a player the United Nations really is. The end of the Obama administration would have been a setback for the Palestinians even if Hillary Clinton had been the next President; with the succession of Donald Trump the United States appears to be shifting toward a pro-Likud orientation in its Israel policy. Putin has broken from the Russian tradition of sympathy for the Palestinians; Erdogan at least for now is prioritizing his need for Israeli support over his instinctive sympathy for the Palestinians and in any case, his identification with Hamas threatens to perpetuate rather than to heal Palestinian weakness and division.
The pro-Palestinian propaganda machine has been hard at work spinning its great victory at the UN. In the real world, the Palestinian cause is going down for the count.