The UN has been petitioned to admit Palestine as a state. The U.S. plans a veto. This is wrong.
One suspects it’s less about the UN vote than the Jewish vote. Obama is already in trouble with Jewish voters (not a big bloc, but influential way beyond their numbers), for perceived insufficient support for Israel. Hence he feels he must back Israel’s misguided opposition to the Palestinians’ UN bid. But this violates the doctrine that politics stops at the water’s edge. To injure America’s international interests for the sake of political gain crosses an unforgivable line.
This UN veto will seriously harm U.S. relations with the entire Muslim world, undoing much of the remedial work which Obama has creditably attempted. And for what? Why are we opposing this Palestinian bid? We should support it. After all, it has long been consistent U.S. policy to favor an independent Palestinian state. That has been a chief objective of our Middle East diplomacy for decades. A UN vote to recognize Palestine would merely be symbolic endorsement of our own long-held objective, while in no way altering facts on the ground. Even if the UN resolution purports to specify borders or other terms, that will have no practical effect, since the UN has no authority in those respects.
Israel and Obama are right that peace cannot be achieved by a UN vote, but only by hard negotiations between the parties. But the UN vote would not impede those negotiations (which are dead in the water anyway). And in fact, by vetoing the Palestinian bid, America will shred whatever credibility it still had as an “honest broker,” cementing the widespread view that America shills for Israel, and undermining its ability to mediate an eventual settlement.
But America will nevertheless cast a veto because that’s what Israel wants. Or, rather, the current Israeli government, which is not the same thing. Indeed, we are hostage to a minority Israeli government that is itself hostage to a minority within that minority. The fractured Israeli political system gives undue leverage to small fringe parties holding a few seats, and hence the balance of power, in the Knesset (parliament). Thus Prime Minister Netanyahu is forced to march to the tune of Avigdor Lieberman and his extreme hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu Party; and the U.S. has now effectively fallen in line as well.
Both Israel and the Palestinians have been pursuing dysfunctional – no, crazy – policies. Israel acts as though it can indefinitely rule territories inhabited by a hostile people, with no rights, whose population is growing faster than its own. That kind of thing inevitably eventually failed even in medieval times. And those times are over. Even Netanyahu, and indeed Lieberman, actually recognize this, and say they favor a Palestinian state. Yet their actions do everything to thwart it.
The Palestinians were sold down the river by their feckless leader Arafat in 2000 when they could have had a state encompassing Gaza plus 90% of the West Bank, but preferred continued conflict instead. And boy did they get it. Palestinians act as though they can somehow, by sullen “resistance” and agitprop, compel Israel, with vastly superior military power, to give up what is obviously more than its legitimate national interest can tolerate. For this impossible fantasy of a complete future triumph the Palestinians sacrifice what could be decent lives today. Another case of the perfect as the enemy of the good.
One wants to scream: “Stop it! Stop your fantasizing, and instead of romanticizing ‘resistance’ and wallowing in victimhood, take the state you can get (while you can still get it) and get on with building lives for yourselves.”
But what they can get shrinks the longer they refuse to face reality, as Israeli settlements progressively make swiss cheese of the West Bank. It’s assumed that in a peace deal the Israelis might annex nearby settlements but would have to yank out distant ones – as they did in Gaza – ever harder as ever more settlers dig in. But this assumption may be challenged. Why not just leave the Israeli settlements within an independent Palestine – thus, creating a multi-ethnic state? After all, it works in America. It even actually works, more or less, in Israel itself, with a large Arab population (not disenfranchised).
Anyhow, the two-state solution has been obvious for decades, accompanied by a sharing of Jerusalem and token but not massive return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. That’s the deal. Nothing different is possible. And majorities on both sides want this deal. But they’ve allowed it to be hijacked by extremist minorities (God-inspired zealots). Now America, with its UN veto, is allowing it too. A truly sad day for U.S. foreign policy.