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Palestinians Reconsider U.N. Statehood Push

Change represents victory for Israel and, even more, Obama

by
Marc Tracy
June 10, 2011
Palestinian President Abbas last month.(Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
Palestinian President Abbas last month.(Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

“We are trapped with September,” one Palestinan Authority official told the AP. Most of President Abbas’s top advisers are, reportedly, quietly telling him not to push a U.N. General Assembly statehood vote in September, even as there is also a sense that he has little choice but to go through with it anyway given how much he has staked on it. The main problem cited is that true sovereignty requires Security Council approval, and the United States will exercise its veto to prevent that. But the everyone has long known that. More likely, the recent change of heart is also a reflection of President Obama’s successful diplomacy, which brought symbolically important countries in Europe over to its position, namely, that Palestinian statehood should only be achieved via U.S.-brokered direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

That diplomacy began with Obama’s “1967 borders” speech, in which, it seems increasingly clear, he was cruel in order to be kind—was rhetorically tough on Israel (while giving essentially nothing away substantively) in order to buy credibility with the Germans, the British, and the French. That diplomacy continued into this week, with the U.S. effectively crippling France’s proposed talks (which the Palestinians jumped at, but which Israel and the U.S. are lukewarm on; instead, Secretary of State Clinton separately met with negotiators from both sides). The crowning moment? On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood beside President Obama as he bluntly requested that the Palestinians halt their unilateral statehood efforts. Because of his own efforts, it is looking more likely that he will get his wish, or, if he doesn’t, that he may as well have.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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