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September Dawns, the General Assembly Nears

Will the P.A. go through with its statehood bid?

Marc Tracy
September 01, 2011
President Abbas this past weekend.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)
President Abbas this past weekend.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, it was clear that the Palestinian Authority is basically the only group deeply involved in the Mideast conflict that supports its own planned drive for a status upgrade—and possibly for statehood—at the United Nations later this month (yup, it’s September now). Israel and the U.S. are against (they want a negotiated resolution); Hamas and Hezbollah are against (they want all of the land, not a compromise); the Palestinian diaspora is against (they would lose representation at the U.N.). Here’s another: King Abdullah of Jordan has reportedly asked President Abbas to reconsider the U.N. gambit—he’s worried that such a move would put at risk the larger goal of a Palestinian right of return; it’s possible he cares about this because lots of Palestinians live in Jordan and some day the Hashemite monarchy might have its own demographic crisis to face. Add, as well, the Israeli left, which analogizes a hypothetical Palestinian state to the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. (“Are Palestinians walking into a trap at the U.N.?” Dimi Reider asks, even though there is no trap—it’s the P.A.’s idea and initiative). And add also the humanitarian perspective, articulated by this article, which states that it would be irresponsible, even immoral of the international community to grant the territories the trappings of statehood before they are actually ready for it. “The U.N. will be recognizing a state whose government(s) maintains questionable legitimacy among its own population, is maligned by deep corruption and internal fighting, lacks control over terror cells that undermine all peace efforts, is depressingly mismanaged and is completely dependent on Israeli industry,” Avi Yesawich writes. “The world will be voting into existence a welfare state that currently owes much of its sustenance to the donations of the international community and Israeli tax transfers.”

Yet most signs point to its going forward. Israel is readying for General Assembly approval—they know there’s no way for them stop it—anticipating potential challenges both legal and physical. Indeed, in addition to West Bank reinforcements, the IDF is actually training settler security teams. That said, it should be noted that the P.A. strategy is to refrain from violence. Here’s hoping.

One gets the sickening sense that, for two years or so, Palestinian statehood at the U.N. was a bluff: not a bad one, but one that has been called; and now it is in no one’s interests more than the bluffer’s to fold.

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