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The Palestinian Statehood Bluff

And how it could prompt real concessions from Israel and the U.S.

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Salam Fayyad (C) yesterday in Brussels with Tony Blair and Catherine Ashton.(John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

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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I read this whole thing and couldn’t find the part where you show that the statehood plan is a bluff, except that you say Fayyad “sounds like someone who see’s September’s General Assembly threat as a bluff,” which (to borrow a phrase from a blogger I read) is just, like, your opinion, man.

Headline change? Or are you chasing after that page-view boost?

Rachel says:

Here is something I don’t get and I mean this sincerely:

Kosovo and South Sudan seemed to be able to get their acts together within just several months, all years of awful war-related activity aside. Why can’t the Palestinians do the same?

I feel like the Sudanese just voted to secede and planned on having a state by the end of the summer. Is a lot of this legal and political mumbo-jumbo and issues with Israel? Is it a desire on the Palestinians’ part to drag this out? What gives?

The Palestinians will never have a real, functioning country until they acknowledge their role in prolonging this conflict unnecessarily, beginning with the offer made under Clinton’s auspices that Arafat spurned. They have just experienced nothing lack the lacerating scrutiny to which Israel has been subjected, and until they do some real soul-searching, that self-delusion is going to cripple them.

Forest says:

What gets me is that the UN gave them a state in 1948 and they rejected it to try to destroy Israel. Now it seems like the UN is giving them another chance to try and destroy Israel

Why didn’t the Palestinians declare their own state in Gaza, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967? There was no Israeli presence there during those years, meaning that the Palestinians could have declared a state there with no Israeli objection or interference. And that time period was 19 years, not 19 hours or 19 days. That was ample time to declare and establish a state. Does this indicate that the Palestinians would never be satisfied with a state on just Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem?

Where, in all of this, is a Palestinian agreement to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state? How is it that Israel must bend to recognize Palestine, but Palestinians are not obliged to allow Israel to exist? The charters of Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah openly call for Israel’s destruction. It’s obvious that they haven’t changed this attitude. So why should Israel agree to Palestinian statehood, without gaining any security at all in return? This is not an agreement with mutual benefit; it is completely one-sided. Palestinians will proudly raise their flag and continue to bombard innocent Israelis with mortars, missiles, rockets and suicide bombers. If Palestinians deserve a nation, Israel deserves security in return.

editrix says:

Pe, the Palestinians couldn’t declare a state between 48 and 67 because the land was ruled by the Jordanians. The question to ask is why didn’t Jordan grant them autonomy during those 19 years.

editrix, we are saying the same thing. Why didn’t the Palestinians at that time working through the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, and/or through the Arab League, and/or through the United Nations declare their own state during that 19 year time period? Israel could not have had any influence on this declaration.

Gene says:

It is a bluff. There are many legal and non-legal problems with this declaration. First of all, by declaring Palestinian state within some borders (whatever they might be, even with East Jerusalem) Palestinians de-facto recognize state of Israel. (it means: everything outside these borders does not belong to them) I don’t think they will go for that. Besides, question of Palestinian refugees automatically goes off the table. (They are not refugees anymore, they live in their own state). There is also legal question since unilateral declaration of borders contradict UN resolution 242 (look at the second paragraph: “…and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries”). So, before establishing boundaries it must be proved that they are “secure and recognized”. But without prior peace agreement it will very difficult to do. UN cannot break its own resolutions.

I wonder if they’re capable of crossing the threshold from romantic revolutionaries and darlings of the left-leaning set to gray functionaries and bureaucrats. All that attention bestowed on them is like a drug. They will just be another country struggling to make it in the competitive global economy.

An exceptional 10 comments.Wonderful insights from the readers. Good job.

Countries exist for several reasons:
1. unique culture or language
2. unique ethnicity
3. economic draw (eg Singapore)

“Palestine” has none of these. Arabic is spoken in over 22 other countries. Palestinian Arab culture is no different from Syrian or Jordanian Arab culture – dominated by Islam and by tribal affiliations. As for economics – so far hard to imagine what will make Palestine more successful than neighboring Arab nations.

I agree with the comment made by LW

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

What good would the U.N. be or a Palestinian State without our money and if the United States withdrew from this org. of a bunch of dictators and threw them out of the country to go to the Arab countries?

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The Palestinian Statehood Bluff

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