Journalist Amir Tibon filed a story Sunday in Israel's Walla! News citing sources who claim the U.S. has abandoned the peace process in order to focus on the negotiations with Iran. According to Tibon, the move clears the way for European states to assume the role of arbiter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This revelation likely means that France — now mulling a resolution at the United Nations Security Council resolution on Palestinian independence — will have greater sway. The French pursued one such resolution on the peace process last fall, but rescinded their draft proposal once it became clear the Palestinians were pushing for a vote on a similar, but less diplomatically worded, resolution.
In recent weeks, the French have made it clear that they are ready to try again. Though both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are likely to be upset with the French wording, the Palestinians will still consider it a success to see their issue revived at the UN.
Between parliamentary recognition votes and boycotts of certain goods from West Bank settlements, Europe has leaned heavily on the side of the PA’s “Palestine 194” campaign — its diplomatic push to become the UN’s 194th member. With a passive U.S., there would be little incentive for countries like France to halt their newest initiative, which Paris has pursued in concert with the Palestinians.
It is unlikely the Europeans will maintain a leading diplomatic position for the long term, however. After a likely Iran nuclear deal is concluded with world powers this summer, it's a safe bet that the Obama Administration will be eager to reassert itself. At that point, the U.S. would likely find itself in a position to save the Israelis from the European diplomatic storm. But such a move will undoubtedly come at a price for Israel – namely diplomatic concessions demanded by the United States that Israel has until now refused.
Judging from Tibon’s reporting, it appears the Obama administration does not want to pick two fights at once. Iran is the administration’s top priority. Obama will thus let France and the EU distract Israel with low-probability diplomatic initiatives at the UN while he negotiates a final deal with Iran. If and when such a deal is signed, expect Washington to resume its role as prime mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and to renew its own pressure on Israel to make territorial and other concessions for a Palestinian state.
Grant Rumley is a research analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Find him on Twitter: @GrantRumley