Jackson Diehl's column in today's Wash. Post ("Abbas's formula for war," p. A19, print edition) is nothing short of bizarre. It's hard to know where to begin with this farrago of weirdness. Diehl appears to think that Abbas's commitment to seek "a U.N. General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood in September" is almost tantamount to a declaration of war. Diehl fastens on Abbas's statement in a recent NYT op-ed that a UN statehood vote would mean "Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another." Let's slowly read the first four words: Palestine. would. be. negotiating. Does that sound like a declaration of war? I didn't think so.
It gets worse. Diehl indicts the U.S. and its European allies for indulging "the soft bigotry of wishful thinking about Arab strongmen" by believing in Abbas's words rather than looking at his deeds. He implicitly compares those deeds to the actions of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. The latter has been shooting his own people in demonstrations around the country. Has Abbas been doing anything comparable? I didn't think so.
Abbas, Diehl concludes, "is trying to transform the Arab Spring into a mass movement against Israel," which "could trigger not just another intifada but another Middle East war." This has the inflammatory ring of a potentially self-fulfilling prophecy. What about the stalemated status quo, with a 'peace process' going nowhere? Doesn't that present dangers? Isn't there a chance that a UN General Assembly vote to admit Palestine, although mostly symbolic, might shake things up in a constructive way? Is it sensible to let the current situation, in which no serious talks are taking place, continue indefinitely?
Abbas's prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has succeeded, as Diehl himself semi-acknowledges, in creating the conditions for statehood on the West Bank. Last September a World Bank report concluded that "if the PA maintains its current performance in institution-building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future" (quoted in Robert M. Danin, "A Third Way to Palestine," Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb. 2011, p.102). Diehl writes that the recent Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement "probably will obligate" Abbas to fire Fayyad. Probably will obligate? What does that mean? Diehl doesn't bother to explain. He's too busy excoriating Obama for his alleged pressure on Netanyahu.
This column is, arguably, worse than bizarre. It's irresponsible.