A careful and balanced evaluation of Mahmoud Abbas’s new strategy is tremendously important. While in some respects it represents a step forward, it is also couched in the tricky double meanings Palestinian political groups have used to conceal their continuing goal of total victory in eliminating Israel. Moreover, nothing is likely to come out of it. There are four important loopholes in the proposal: First, its main purpose is not to recognize Israel, but to outmaneuver Hamas in terms of domestic politics. Abbas’s terms were that the referendum would go ahead only if Hamas did not reach agreement with Fatah. Moreover, of course, the main goals are to promote Palestinian unity and make international public relations gains. Second, the plan very consciously leaves open the idea that gaining an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem is only the first stage in wiping Israel off the map. Third, the priority given to the demand for a ‘right of return’ as a condition of equal importance to gaining a state reveals the preceding point. The invocation of UN Security Council resolution 194 as a basis for this claim (a half-century-old, non-binding resolution intended […]

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