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      Experts Question Wisdom of Abbas' Unilateralist Tack

      Experts say PA unilateralism could have unintended consequences and hit the PLO bid for statehood where it hurts: in the pocket book.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 4/20/2011, 10:13 PM / Last Update: 4/20/2011, 10:23 PM

      As PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas proceeds full steam ahead with plans to seek a unilateral declaration of a PA state using the 1948 armistice lines for its borders by the United Nations, some observers say he may be invoking the law of unintended consequences.

      The Opposite Effect?

      Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for the US State Department, wrote in the Washington Post on April 14, “The result will be the opposite of what the Palestinians want: forcing the United States to oppose Palestinians’ efforts, energizing Congress to restrict much-needed assistance to Palestinian institution-building, and probably prompting Israel to do very real (and dumb) things on the ground.”

      Nathan Brown, a political scientist specializing in Arab politics at George Washington University in the US said PA leaders have no choice but to reach a negotiated settlement with Israel.

      "I think unilateralism is a tactic rather than a strategy for the Palestinians," Brown told The Media Line. "At this moment they see no prospects of meaningful peace negotiations with the current Israeli government or the American administration. So they are garnering international support to put pressure on Israel and the US."

      Robbi Sabel, and international law expert at Jerusalem's Hebrew University said, also on The Media Line, "If the Palestinians unilaterally declare statehood, what we are left with is a border dispute."

      Sabel said one of the biggest consequences a unilateral statehood declaration may entail is the "right of return" for Arabs in neighboring countries who claim homes inside Israel.

      The Hidden Cost of Victory: Dollars and Cents

      But success for Abbas in the form of unilateral declaration of PA statehood by the UN may impact US aid not only to the PA, but to the UN as well.

      White House Middle East Adviser Dennis Ross said two weeks ago Washington is "firmly opposed" to a unilateral declaration of a PA state by the UN. "A unilateral declaration would be a violation of the Oslo peace accords," Ross said.

      “That would be a very, very bad thing to do,” Rep. Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign aid, said last week. The Texas Republican clarified “It will” affect US aid to the Palestinian Authority, adding, “It would be a very serious misstep. It also could affect our funding at the UN.”

      A democratic aid serving on Granger's committee told reporters, “The aid to the Palestinians includes the US’s understanding the Palestinians will continue to keep pursuing peace with Israel as per the Oslo agreement. If they were to unilaterally declare a state, they would be violating that understanding. I think there’s no question that if they were to unilaterally declare a state, it would affect our aid.”

      The US has contributed to the billions of dollars in foreign aid to the PA over the past four years and has played a major role in training its security forces.