The U.N. Will Recognize a Palestinian State and Expose America’s Obstructionism
Originally published on Tikkun Daily
According to a classified cable obtained by Haaretz, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, has informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Israel has no chance of preventing the U.N. General Assembly from recognizing Palestine as a state.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the 2007 World Economic Forum during a session entitled “Enough is Enough – Israel and the Palestinian Territories.” Photo by the World Economic Forum.
Prosor’s assessment is consistent with what has been observed for some time: that only a handful of U.N. member states plan to vote against the Palestinian initiative in the General Assembly, with an expected 130-140 countries voting in favor. And among Western nations, only five so far have pledged to vote against recognition of a Palestinian state: Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the United States.
Of those five countries, which nation stands alone in refusing to consider changing its voting stance if the Palestinians include language indicating a continued commitment to peace talks with Israel in its U.N. bid? The United States.
America’s isolation is stunning. But it gets worse.
The United States is the only country currently standing in the Palestinian Authority’s way in its push to attain full U.N. member status for Palestine. In order to become a full U.N. member state, the Palestinians must go through the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), which consists of 15 nations, five of which have veto powers. One of those five nations, China, recently stated publicly that it would vote in favor of Palestinian statehood in the UNSC. However, the Obama administration has made clear that it intends to veto any efforts by the PA in the UNSC, effectively blocking any chance for Palestine to become a state according to international law. (For U.N. resolutions dealing with statehood to be legally binding, they must first be passed by the UNSC.)
What remains uncertain is whether or not Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will formally go to the UNSC first and force the U.S. to cast its veto vote. Such a move would certainly be bold, for it would be done with the sole intention of highlighting America’s obstructionist and isolationist stance toward Palestinian statehood as the entire world watches.
While it’s unclear if Abbas will test the U.S. in this way, what is certain is that Abbas will seek a vote in the General Assembly for a nonbinding resolution calling upon the international community to recognize Palestine as a state. Such a resolution, while having no legal force, will almost certainly pass (with a U.S. “no” vote), and will be a symbolic victory for the Palestinians in the face of American opposition.
With peace talks between the PA and Israel stalled largely due to Netanyahu’s intransigence, and with settlement construction continuing apace, eating away at more and more of Palestinian land in the West Bank, the Palestinians had to make a move. And considering that the U.N. is the traditional forum where such issues can be resolved, it’s entirely appropriate for Abbas to be seeking statehood through the U.N.
What is entirely inappropriate, in my opinion, is the level of American obstructionism. The Obama administration claims that it cannot support such a unilateral move by the Palestinians. However, seeking statehood through the U.N., when all other options have been exhausted, is a multilateral move. The irony is that Israel’s continued, illegal settlement construction is unilateral, and yet this construction evokes from America nothing more than rhetorical slaps on the wrist.
The PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has argued that U.N. membership could actually enhance the chances for a peaceful settlement with Israel in that it would legally force geopolitical issues, such as the occupation and settlements, to be resolved.
The Obama administration disagrees.
What happens after the U.N. vote is anyone’s guess, as not many parties seem to have thought through this process entirely, including the Palestinians.
However, whatever happens, one thing is sure: America will be on the outside looking in.
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