DECLARING "enough, enough, enough", the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, starred in a day of
diplomatic tension and theatre at the United Nations as his quest for international recognition of Palestine sparked yet another
big-powers flurry to fend off a final collapse of the peace process.
"At a time when the Arab people affirm their quest for democracy - the Arab Spring - the time is now for the
Palestinian spring, the time is for independence," Mr Abbas said.
"It is a moment of truth and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world - will it allow Israel
to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world?"
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"The time is now for the Palestinian spring, the time is for independence" ... Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas. Photo: Getty Images
Within the hour, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was at the same lectern mocking the UN as
a ''theatre of the absurd'' before pushing back on the Abbas demand - "the Palestinians want a state without peace, and the
truth is that you should not let it happen".
Deriding a reference by Mr Abbas to Palestinians being armed only with ''hopes and dreams'', Mr Netanyahu
parried: "Hopes and dreams - and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran."
Each leader spoke for about 40 minutes. Mr Abbas built his case on justice and the vexing issue of Israeli
settlement on Arab land; Mr Netanyahu invoked September 11, Iran's nuclear program and militant Islam to insist that Israel's
security was a greater imperative than Palestinian independence.
The two insisted they wanted peace and were ready to talk. Mr Netanyahu quipped at one stage, "We're in the
same building. So let's meet here today in the United Nations. What is there to stop us?"
"The status quo is completely unacceptable," the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, declared as diplomats
from the big powers emerged from a backroom at the UN headquarters, claiming they had devised a new plan to break the deadlock.
"There is a very high risk of violence and demonstrations [if] we don't move," he said.
Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis responded immediately to the plan for more talks, which appears
to incorporate much of what the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, this week called for as an end to US domination of what
he said was a failed process.
Israel will be leery of an elevated role for Europe or the UN in the management of the process. But after
the speech by the US President, Barack Obama, on the conflict this week, which shocked Palestinians with its Israeli partisanship,
the Palestinians will be wary of the Americans. This speech was in direct contradiction to Obama's speech almost a year ago.
The plan calls for a resumption of talks within a month, with issues of security and borders to be dealt with
within three months, ''substantial progress'' to be achieved within six months and a final agreement to be inked by the end
None of its backers explained why the deal was any more likely to succeed where so many of its predecessors
had failed, a point made by James Zogby, an American pollster specialising in the Middle East, who told The New York Times:
"What we have done now for the last 20-plus years is engage people in an endless process - as long as they were riding the
bicycle, it didn't matter if it wasn't going anywhere as long as it didn't fall down."
That was a core element of the Abbas speech - citing the failure of the US-managed effort to end what he called
a ''colonial, military occupation''. He said: "It's neither possible nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting
business as usual, as if everything is fine.
"The occupation is racing against time to redraw the borders of our land according to what it wants and to
impose a fait accompli on the ground that changes the realities and that is undermining the realistic potential for the existence
of the state of Palestine.
"This policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-state solution upon which there is international
consensus [and] threatens to also undermine the structures of the Palestinian Authority and even [to] end its existence."
An added pressure on those trying to manage the new talks will rest on Washington's ability to keep in line
the Security Council members who previously undertook to support the Palestinians but now are having second thoughts, according
to Palestinian officials, after being bullied by the Americans. It's a fine balancing act - the US can push only so far before
these countries might conclude that if they push back they will force Washington to use its Security Council veto to knock
down the Palestinian application, something it is loath to do because of the damage it will inflict on its own standing in
the Arab and Muslim world.
Before being escorted to the green marble dais of the UN General Assembly, Mr Abbas delivered his letter of
demand to the Security Council to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon - recognition of a state on the land occupied by Israel
since the Six-Day War, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
"The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state," Mr Netanyahu declared.
The Israeli leader seized on a reference by Mr Abbas to "63 years of [Palestinian] suffering" as proof that
the Palestinian complaint is more about the existence of Israel than it is about land lost in the 1967 war. Similarly no doubt,
Palestinians will fix on Mr Netanyahu's mention that "we're called Jews because we are from Judea" as proof that Israel always
coveted and will never return the West Bank - because it comprises the areas known to Jews as Judea and Samaria. (N.B. Netanyahu's
claim of being "called Jews because we are from Judea" proves wrong at the bar of historical fact and a continued deception
along with the Jewish claims that they are semites. The Judeans were black skinned Africans, and the European "Jews" are not
semites and had never been in Palestine)
As UN delegations packed up to leave New York, there were many unknowns - might the new talks even start,
let alone go anywhere? Do the Palestinians still have the backing they claimed to have in the Security Council? If push does
come to shove, will the US veto a Security Council decision to recognise Palestine? Sorry to say that it is hardly likely
that the U.S. or Israel would want to see this happen.