The Palestinian Statehood Bluff
And how it could prompt real concessions from Israel and the U.S.
Last week, it was the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This week, it was a group of donors and a United Nations report that recognized that the Palestinian Authority is meeting most of a sovereign state’s requirements. What was specifically glossed over was the U.N. report’s insistence that peace talks were essential to statehood. What is generally glossed over is that U.N. recognition would probably need to derive from a nonbinding resolution that would also require, in an oblique way, the much tougher climb of Security Council approval. And so what is particularly glossed over is that U.N. recognition of Palestine is like Godot: Looming as a very real-like figure, but probably not actually going to arrive.
The P.A. says it plans to attempt to seek statehood when the General Assembly next convenes, in September, in accordance with a plan put forth by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad back in 2009. Such a move would likely require Security Council approval—which is to say, the United States would have the opportunity to veto it—but neither the U.S. nor Israel wants it to get that far; indeed, one Israeli official worried about just what the U.S. would do, arguing, “Obama wants a Palestinian state and although the U.S. is not interested in a unilateral declaration, it would be hard for it to stand alone.” The administration put the kibosh on a Quartet meeting this week that may have imposed a peace plan on both sides—a sign, the official said, “of how deeply we depend on them.” He added, “But this hold-up will not change matters in the General Assembly and this is a trend we cannot change.”
A new Israel Project poll found that 51 percent of registered American voters oppose statehood without a treaty with Israel (31 percent support). But the Obama administration does, indeed, want a state, and to that end Secretary of State Clinton is planning a new “push,” though it’s not clear exactly what it will be (hopefully it won’t continue to emphasize settlements, a strategy which even administration ally John Kerry admitted was an utter failure).
Fayyad, too, is calling for America to step in (he is also trying to drum up $5 billion in state-launching aid). He sounds very much like someone uwho sees September’s General Assembly threat as a bluff meant to deliver concessions from the Americans and the Israelis rather than as a Plan A.
… Which may be why some have suggested that Prime Minister Netanyahu call his bluff, either by presenting a detailed plan of his own, or—more dramatically, and less likely—actively supporting a G.A. resolution, on the condition that Israel play an active role in shaping the future Palestinian state. For now, Netanyahu’s strategy appears to be to ruffle as few feathers as possible: At the beginning of this week, he very quietly postponed new East Jerusalem building, and leaked that he is considering pulling the IDF out of the West Bank to avoid charges of “occupation” should Palestinian statehood be somehow recognized, in some manner, at the U.N.
“Israeli diplomats liken the strategizing, the tactical forays, the bluffing and the doublebluffing over the Palestinian moves toward a unilateral declaration of statehood to a game of poker,” Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz wrote recently. “Except that it’s anything but a game.”
U.N. Praises Palestinian Preparations for Statehood [WSJ]
‘U.S. Will Have Hard Time Standing Alone at U.N.’ [Ynet]
Clinton: U.S. Plans New Push on Israeli-Palestinian Peace [Reuters/Haaretz]
P.A.: U.S. Must Present Peace Plan Before We Declare State [Reuters/JPost]
Playing Poker Over ‘Palestine’ [JPost]
Earlier: Obama and the Veto
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