Pre-UN Vote Israel-Palestine Links

A selection of readings on the Palestine vote

Honestly, is there anything else to talk about these days? (Ok, tons, but still…) I have been crazy busy lately, so I thought today I would play some catch up. For now, then, everyone will have to deal with a veritable barrage of links (from only the last two days) to articles concerning the upcoming UN vote on Palestine. Needless to say, many of these are highly critical of the US decision to veto the Palestinian push for statehood, others talk about the deepening of Israeli isolation (see my take here) while others lament the UN drive as damaging to the Palestinian cause. Enjoy.

On the implications for Palestine and the bid in general:

  • A Formal Funeral for the Two State Solution – Ali Abunimah, Foreign Affairs: The Palestinian Authority’s bid to the United Nations for Palestinian statehood is, at least in theory, supposed to circumvent the failed peace process. But in two crucial respects, the ill-conceived gambit actually makes things worse, amplifying the flaws of the process it seeks to replace. First, it excludes the Palestinian people from the decision-making process. And second, it entirely disconnects the discourse about statehood from reality. (This is a great piece by Abunimah about how the UN vote could lead to disastrous consequences for the Palestinians.)
  • AJE Interview Featuring Noura Erekat on Palestinian Statehood Bid – Jadaliyya: brief thoughts from Avi Shlaim (University of Oxford), Hassan Jabareen (founder of Adalah Center for Human Rights), Daniel Levy (New America Foundation/ Middle East Channel), and Noura Erekat (Georgetown University/Jadaliyya.) (These opinions should probably be longer as they cover many of the more important legal and social implications of the UN bid.)
  • Palestinian UN Move ‘Too Little, Too Late’ – Juan Cole, MidEast Posts: The reason for seeking recognition as a member nation of the UN is simply to gain moxie in those negotiations. The big problem of the Palestinians is that, being stateless, they lack moxie. (Sure, moxie is something, but to gain moxie with whom? The international community, not Palestinians. That is not to say that the PA is accepted by the Palestinian people…)
  • Membership Dues – Steve Coll, The New Yorker: Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, has provoked the latest turmoil in Middle Eastern diplomacy by suggesting that the U.N. should recognize Palestine as a state, even though it is clear that no such nation can be self-sustaining without a negotiated peace with Israel. (There are many reasons why Palestine should fall short of the requirements for statehood. The PA is not representative of the people, the territory is split between Hamas and Fatah, Israel controls 60% of the Palestinian territory. Just saying.)
  • What Palestinian State? – Lori Allen, Al Jazeera: With its focus on the 1967 borders, has the Palestinian Authority (PA) finally fully succumbed to the revocation of refugee rights and reparation? Will the US veto the proposal for Palestinians’ full UN membership on the grounds that it is “counterproductive”, revealing, yet again, that they are not an “honest broker”? Can their credibility in the Middle East dwindle yet further? (Allen takes a look at what the UN bid could do to the Palestinian refugees living in, notably, Lebanon. Could success at the UN mean the end of the Right of Return?)
  • Last-Minute Deal Could Avert a Collision Course at the UN – Hussein Ibish: Palestinians simply cannot live with a status quo involving continued occupation and expanding settlement with virtually no prospects of a serious resumption of bilateral talks with Israel. The negotiating process brokered by the United States looks incapable of overcoming the impasse between the two sides and the sense that something drastic is required to communicate the level of Palestinian desperation is widely shared. [Could the US prevent this? Does it want to? See NFAM‘s Whitman on this]
  • Palestine’s Latin American Outreach Makes  A Lot More Sense Now – Joshua Keeting, Foreign Policy: In the context of Palestinian negotiations with Israel, the support of say, Paraguay, didn’t seem all that consequential. But with international recognition of Palestine very much on the world’s agenda this week, the Palestinian overtures to South America make a lot more sense. (See my look at those events here and here)
  • Wake Me Up When ‘September’ Ends – David Schorr TPM: Various motives and aims have been ascribed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but the essential thrust of his initiative is to pursue an alternate venue to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (I disagree completely. Abbas has said that negotiations with Israel are necessary regardless of the UN outcome. Schorr makes some good points in this peace though.)
  • Abbas’ UN Offensive Might Be A Step Towards Peace – Noah Feldman, Bloomberg: Faced with a continuing impasse in negotiations, Abbas is thinking outside the box. Perhaps inspired by the Arab Spring, he is pursuing nonviolent diplomacy, often the road not taken in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. And it turns out that, appearances to the contrary, he has more options than immediate defeat. (Feldman is spot on about Abba knowing the UN bid will fail, but he does not mention the possible consequences mentioned by Abunimah, above)

On the implications for Israel:

  • Why Liberal Zionists Should Support the Palestinian Statehood Bid–And Why Most Don’t – Jerry Haber: Instead of cheerleading for the Palestinian two-state solution on at the UN, and writing editorials and op-eds that endorse the statehood bid (while questioning its efficacy in achieving true statehood), most see it as a counter-productive gesture that does not advance the peace process. The liberal Zionist New York Times opposes it. So does the liberal Zionist establishment in the US. (Liberal Zionists accept the two state paradigm, but reject the UN bid? How much do they really accept the two state idea?)
  • Israel: Adrift at Sea Alone – Thomas Friedman, New York Times: I’VE never been more worried about Israel’s future. The crumbling of key pillars of Israel’s security — the peace with Egypt, the stability of Syria and the friendship of Turkey and Jordan — coupled with the most diplomatically inept and strategically incompetent government in Israel’s history have put Israel in a very dangerous situation. (And when Friedman turns against Israel, you know it is bad. See my thoughts on Israeli isolation here. Richard Silverstein, and Beirut Spring react. The next one is similar.)
  • As Palestinians Push for Statehood, Israel Finds Itself Isolated – Karl Vick, Time: With most of the world sympathetic to the Palestinians, waylaying their application for statehood will require Israel to deploy diplomatic skills of the highest order. But its preparations have not been going well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warmed up for the big event by alienating the U.S. President, at once misquoting and lecturing Obama during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington in May. (Israel has no one but itself – and its American cheerleaders – to blame for the growing isolation of the country. See my take here.)
  • Israeli Coalition Leader Blasts Netanyahu’s Coalition for ‘Putting the US into a Corner’ – Eli Clifton, Lobelog: Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, during a Knesset debate ahead of the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, characterized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition as engaging in “diplomatic stupidity” and warned that government’s position is putting “the United States into a corner.” She placed blame for the current predicament at Netanyahu’s feet. (When Livni is going after you for diplomatic stupidity, it is perhaps time to change your tone.)
  • Playing a Dangerous Game – Jeff Barak, Jerusalem Post: The damage to Israel’s international standing due to Netanyahu;s do-nothing diplomatic policy is finally becoming apparent to all. (Perhaps the UN vote will be used to push Netanyahu out of office?)
  • Our World: Funding the Enemy – Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post: “Future assistance and cooperation could be severely and irreparably compromised if the Palestinian leadership continues on its path of essentially acting in contravention of all signed agreements which also regulate existing economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” Ayalon’s position is eminently reasonable. Unfortunately, it contradicts utterly the official position of the Government of Israel. (Glick represents everything wrong with the hard right in Israel. Can she not see that the PA has done more for Israeli security than it has for Palestinians? The Palestinians see the PA as a second occupier, and Glick continues to refer to the PA as an enemy.)

On the implications for the USA:

  • Americans Support the Recognition of Palestine – Paul Woodward: Here are some numbers President Obama should think about: Americans currently view him less favorably than they do UN recognition of Palestine! Obama’s approval rating is 43% while 45% support Palestine. (Richard Silverstein has another piece on the same poll hereWalt and Mearsheimer anyone? Oh Hello Glenn Greenwald and Stephen Walt!)
  • The Mainstreaming of Walt and Mearsheimer – Glenn Greenwald, Salon: Unfortunately, though, it is still a fact.  While there is little doubt that blocking Palestinian statehood will damage the U.S. in substantial ways, there is a reasonable debate to be had about whether Palestinian statehood is actually beneficial to the Palestinians.  But American politicians won’t be entertaining that debate as they exercise their veto because, as The Israel Lobby documented and Tom Friedman today put it, “the powerful pro-Israel lobby . . . can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America’s.”
  • Well, Duh – Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy: The United States has backed Israel no matter what it did because AIPAC and the other groups in the lobby have enormous influence inside the Beltway and use that political muscle to defend Israel whenever its government’s policies clash with America’s interests… The elephant has been in the room for a long time, but now it has the spotlights on it and it’s wearing a pink bikini too. It’s hard to miss, in short, which is surely why Tom Friedman wrote what he did. (“Hate to say I told you so, but…”)
  • Mr. President: Play Jujitsu With the UN Vote – Bernard Avishai, TPM: But as Abbas well knows, this U.N. move is political theater for everybody. The question is whether the Obama administration can play jujitsu with it, turning negative energy in the Security Council into a positive energy in the General Assembly hall, that is, force the writers of headlines around the world to think of something more nuanced and hopeful than “Obama Sinks Palestinian State.” (Avishai wisely calls for the US to use the UN bid to its advantage and not to shoot itself – and Israel – in the foot by blindly following the advice of AIPAC.)
  • The Tsuris – John Hellemann, NY Magazine: How, exactly, did Obama come to be portrayed, and perceived by many American Jews, as the most ardently anti-Israel president since Jimmy Carter? (This one is good, but long – if you have the time)
  • Vetoing Palestinian Bid Will Damage US Relationship with Muslim World for Years to Come – Former Ambassador – Phillip Weiss, Mondoweiss: On the other hand, if the United States vetoes the Palestinian request for statehood, we will damage our position in the Islamic world—not merely the Arab World—for untold years to come. We will become the object of retribution throughout the Muslim world, and will give new energy to the lagging efforts of al-Qaida to retaliate against us. I served my country 36 years in the Foreign Service of the United States, ten assignments in ten Muslim countries. I know the power of this issue. Why would we want to give new impetus to anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world? (Who thinks that Obama is not already aware of the consequences of the veto? Though obvious, it is a good read.)
  • Israel/Palestine: Washington is the Problem – Issandr El Amrani, The Arabist: I’m no fan of Abbas but here he is right: the US is not serious about the peace process and cannot be serious as long as Israel lobby saboteurs like Dennis Ross are given positions on any administration’s team. These guys (or people just as bad like Elliott Abrams in the Bush administration) have been doing the peace process merry-go-round since the George H.W. Bush administration in the late eighties. Except back then they weren’t senior officials and could be shut down by James Baker. (The video of the White House press conference is priceless, sad and slightly humiliating – American politicians trying to defend the use of the veto. Best question: “Why isn’t there anyone in this Administration that has the brainpower, the creativity, to use this as a positive thing to build momentuminstead of regarding it as completely a negative thing?” What a good question.)
  • Obama’s Historic Opportunity – Gideon Levy, Haaretz:  The American president this week has the historic opportunity of improving the status of his country, of justifying retroactively the Nobel Prize for Peace that he was awarded, of demonstrating real commitment to imposing peace in the most dangerous region for the fate of the world, and of showing genuine concern for the well-being of Israel – but what do we get instead? George Bush. George Bush for the poor. (A pretty scathing piece about how Obama is bending – scathing, but true)
  • The Humiliation of Barack Obama – Robert Grenier, Al Jazeera: For one as busy as a US president, there are many distractions, many ways to avoid confronting the unpleasant. But at some point, when the president is alone with his briefing book in New York, it is going to strike him. He will feel a tightening in his chest, and he will have an urge to pick up this plastic-bound tome to craven political expediency and hurl it at someone, and then to walk out and say what he really thinks. We all know that the president will do no such thing. He will suppress this urge, for to do otherwise would spell political suicide. No, the president will swallow his anger, and do what he must do. But it is worth giving some consideration, as the US again undermines its security and its global position, pointlessly and gratuitously, in blind allegiance to an ungrateful and self-destructive ally, that we will also be watching something else, something far more personal: The public mortification of Barack Hussein Obama. (Good points: What is Obama really thinking about all this?)

Personally, I am not sure that the UN bid will do much at all to change reality on the ground. I think that Abbas completely understands that the US will veto the UNSC decision and that the realization of an independent Palestinian state depends completely on the willingness of Israel to negotiate. However, for Abbas, the UN bid will be a symbolic victory that embarrasses Israel as the true rejectionists and the US as the enablers. Perhaps Abbas is hoping that the embarrassment of Israel and the US will bring a new, more moderate government to power in the former and allow the latter to simply step aside. However, as Ali Abunimah writes (cited above,) I do not think that the PA has completely thought through the implications of the move. The most devastating outcome would be the end of the Palestinian refugees Right of Return. Even if the US magically becomes more evenhanded out of shame and a more moderate Israeli government faithfully enters negotiations, this UN bid could be used as a means to eliminate the rights of the millions of displaced Palestinians scattered around the world.

Photo from Amir Mizroch

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2 thoughts on “Pre-UN Vote Israel-Palestine Links

  1. That’s a lot of information. My opinion is that Israel and the Palestinians have had a long time (since Oslo, at least) to “agree to agree” (can that be done?-) The Israeli’s will decline to agree until they have enough “settlements” to maintain an advantage, politically. C’mon, The politics have changed in the middle East and the Palestinians must surely be as tired of negotiating with the Israelis as Obama is tired of negotiating with the Republicans who signed the oath not to raise taxes. This is a no win for the US: morally we should approve; politically we must veto. How much longer can Israel continue the charade?

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